Welcome to the wondrous world of band names. It’s a hellish paradise. There are the Beatles, the Velvet Undergrounds, and the Tony! Toni! Toné!s of the world, but for every clever and succinct band name there are the Foo Fighters, Butthole Surfers, and Cerebral Ballzys to balance it out. There are “trends” in names like various “Clubs” (e.g. Tokyo Police Club, Two Door Cinema Club, etc), band names missing vowels (SBTRKT, MGMT, etc), and “Royal” bands (Royal Teeth, Royal Canoe, etc). And in the 21st Century there are crimes being committed in the world of band names, far worse than Nickelback or Hoobastank.
There are certain band names floating around in the music atmosphere that are derivatives of existing pop culture icons, and though at first it was kind of funny, it quickly became uninspired.
There are bands on the clever end of the spectrum like Chet Faker, Dandy Warhols, and Harmonica Lewinsky, but there’s something in me that can’t forgive those Joy Orbisons, Elvis Depressedlys, and Truman Peyotes. Obviously there are others, like Run DMT, Sigmund Droid, Leann Grimes, and my personal favorite, Dread Zeppelin.
(Well, Dread Zeppelin I can forgive because their name is technically clever, since they are actually a reggae Led Zeppelin cover band. But I have no mercy for the others.)
I don’t know what it is about parody names that get to me, but as unique as they may seem, at their core they are the essence of unoriginal, given that all they needed to come up with a name was someone good at puns and pop culture references. Even I could probably make a living naming bands after things exist. For starters, we’ve got Swell Gibson, Scrawny Depp, and Slim Kardashian. Seriously, I could do this all day.
Maybe it’s a millennial thing, where irony is king and if you aren’t quick on your feet when it comes to puns, you’ve got nothing to offer to society. But I, for one, am not a fan. I’m not sure exactly why it bothers me so much, but maybe it has to do with the fact that despite the origins of their names, these bands aren’t making music that sounds remotely like their parentage. When I hear, Joy Orbison, I don’t imagine a British DJ and producer. Same with Joanna Gruesome, my mind doesn’t jump to a kind of spooky, but hip and noisy young band. I guess it’s that gap between the name, the image it conjures, and the actual content that disorients me and keeps me from choosing to listen to this music.
But also is there a kind of pretentiousness to it–to take a significantly well-known artist/musician/author from pop culture and appropriate their name, whilst incorporating a piece of their own “ideology,” say drugs and/or depression and/or a slew of other melancholy and grungy ideals, to represent and embody their own cultural significance in society. I mean, none of the bands listed here are close to being household names, and probably never will be. God only knows that if they ever were to get to that level, they would be sued shitless for “misrepresenting” these cultural icons. It is a little overambitious isn’t it? To affiliate yourself, however loosely, with a societal symbol like Elvis or Mick Jagger, and then make music that’s a complete 180 from the popular culture that they represent. But then again, maybe the intention there is to scoff upon cultural standards of today by appropriating and reclaiming pop culture. In this day and age, who knows? Who cares? Maybe that really is the point.