In the consumerist age we live in, branding is just as important in media as the content produced. In music, we judge just as often by image as we do by skill or sound. A band’s name can make or break them. The annals of music history hold some absolute belters, but also some names that make you wonder just exactly the band were thinking. I’m not talking about the terribly offensive names you see in some genres of metal and punk – these are so crude because that’s precisely their point. I want to instead give examples of names that are objectively awful.
First up, the atrociously dubbed Panic! At the Disco. I’m no linguistic prescriptivist, I like to play around with the confines of grammar as much as the next person, but an exclamation mark in the middle of a phrase? A little too left field for my tastes. Condemned for similar sins are Mötley Crüe and Motörhead, along with the plethora hard rock bands that play too haphazardly with umlauts. This would not be a sin usually, were they recognising and following the change in pronunciation that an umlaut denotes, but the diacritics are little more than garnish.
Conversely, a good band name is one that describes a band perfectly: I’m a big proponent of Gang of Four’s choice, considering their line-up includes four people. The slightly esoteric and obscure New Beat outfit Club Music produce precisely that. But the king of practical and clear band names goes to The Band – what else can be said about that?
It’s difficult to place judgment on a lot of names however, especially those in the realm of “so bad they’re good”. I’m a huge fan of indie rock band Car Seat Headrest, but I agree with many detractors who say that their name is pretty stupid. However, its stupidity is what makes it intriguing, and makes you come back for more. Criminally underrated jangle pop project The Cleaners from Venus has a similarly daft name, but I’m giving it top accolades simply because it just about rhymes.
At this point in the article I feel as though I should crown winners and losers. The title of worst name is difficult – one must be careful of choosing a name that’s so bad it’s actually good. Instead, I’m opting to present three of the most boring and uninspired band names I can come up with: The Beatles, Radiohead, and Coldplay. Obviously, none of these names seem to have hindered their careers, but I don’t understand choosing these when they could’ve picked literally anything else slightly more exciting.
The title of best band name ever is, in contrast, clear to me. I choose this name not because of solely how it sounds, but what was done with it after the fact. Sophisti-pop group Living in a Box have what I’d call a good name; it’s not bad. It’s also no surprise that they named their album after themselves – the self-titled debut is no rarity. However, the spicy move is also titling the lead single of said album Living in a Box, resulting in the delightful track listing of Living in a Box, by Living in a Box, from the album, Living in a Box.
Last modified: 26th March 2020