As time wears on, it's becoming increasingly difficult for new bands to come up with an original moniker that offers a hint as to what that band might sound like without either participating in copyright infringement or making the band's members come off like a bunch of clueless cornholes. We can't all be like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose handle perfectly sums up the band's colorful, confrontational persona.
Death Cab for Cutie sells great music under a cheesy name
And yet, some bands choose names so unbelievably lame it would truly be better for everyone involved if they just took the easy way out like the xx and smashed a couple of letters together. Take Freelance Whales, a band from Queens that appears at Sasquatch this year. Surly and jaded as I am, I truly like Freelance Whales' music. These kids make innovative, fresh-faced indie pop in a scene so clogged with mediocre imitators it needs extra-strength Drano, and yet, they couldn't have picked out a more mock-able band name if their lives depended on it.
That said, I am not about to call out young bands who could have used some guidance during the name-selection process. If I did, this list would develop an Infinite Jest-ian girth. Nor am I talking about bands whose crappy moniker comes as an unsurprising warning as to the inferior quality of the band's music (the Korns, Stainds and Limp Bizkits of the world fall into this category). I am also not referring to bands whose names, goofy though they might be, represent, in some way, the music the band plays. "Weezer" was a perfect choice for a band that specialized in anthems written for, by and about asthmatic, D&D-playing, girl-phobic nerds. The name "Bright Eyes" is infuriatingly emo, but hey, that's just Conor Oberst wearing a pair of shoes that fit him well. Even the name Black Moth Super Rainbow makes sense for a band of people that deal in music as compellingly bizarre as theirs.
Herein, I refer to the five truly stellar, iconic bands who, for one inexplicable reason or another, chose supremely lame, nonsensical names to represent what is otherwise excellent music made by talented people who should've known better. I'll be counting down to the number one spot all week long.
5. Death Cab for Cutie
5. Death Cab for Cutie
A fine example of a case in which some editing -- specifically, cutting -- would have served well, Death Cab by itself is a much, much cooler-sounding name than Death Cab for Cutie. As you Twilight soundtrack-buying megafans already know, the name comes from a song in the '67 Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour, but just because you like the idea of using a pop culture reference as a band name does not make the phrase in question an acceptable band name on its own merits. And I suspect the band didn't receive widespread attention from the mainstream until after Death Cab had already produced its best work to date -- after Transatlantacism, things got a little shaky -- because its name sounds more like the name of a high school screamo band than an accomplished indie pop band fronted by an inarguably gifted lyricist.