A great band name can intrigue. It can evoke all sorts of emotions and fantasies that add to the power of a band's music. A great band name begs to be carved into the back of a high school student's spiral notebook with a Bic pen.
A bad band name, on the other hand, can keep people away. A bad band name can stink up a room faster than a corpse flower in bloom. And few things are more artistically unfortunate than when a great band saddles themselves with a lousy name.
Here are nine bands who make awesome, compelling music — even though their names sound like magnetic fridge poetry gone horribly wrong. Listen to 'em, love 'em, and get your "no, really, they're actually really good" speech ready so you can convert scoffing skeptics.
Cigarettes After Sex
Fronted by Greg Gonzalez, this Brooklyn-based band plays spare, ambient pop that recalls the sultry, druggy stylings of groups like Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies. Cigarettes After Sex can even bust out a mean REO Speedwagon cover, and it takes real chops to make people enjoy hearing an REO Speedwagon song. But that name ... sweet Jesus. When the group were bouncing ideas for names around, somebody must have said "We're like cigarettes after sex, man." And everyone was like, "Yo, that's it right there. Case closed."
From 2011 through 2016, Pity Sex were one of the best shoegaze revival bands out there. On songs like "Burden You" and "Drawstring," they created a beguiling hybrid of emo and shoegaze: massive and dreamy guitars wound themselves around confessional lyrics. They were a band that was easy to love in every respect except for one: that name. Try telling someone that you're "really into Pity Sex" sometime and see what their reaction will be. It's the perfect band to list in your dating profile if you don't want anyone to swipe right.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
The name of Owen Ashworth's solo project was so painfully emo it left no room to wonder why he — or anyone listening to his band — was alone. It's a name that wallows in abject self-parody. Get past it, though, and you'll find a rich discography. Active until 2010, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone released a string of powerful and smart albums. Singing over synths, Ashworth's voice was somewhere in between David Berman and Leonard Cohen on the Gravelly Cool Singer scale. Ashworth now releases albums under the much less punchable handle Advance Base.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? More like Clap Your Hands and Say No to This Band Name, amirite?! Get it, because their name has a Yeah in it and ... I'll see myself out.
Diarrhea Planet know how to bring the noise. They play poppy garage rock with heavy metal intensity, unleashing riffs that will have your toes tapping, your head banging, and your body shaking. Too bad their name makes you wonder if they're alien emissaries on a mission from their home world to seize all of Earth's toilet paper before their civilization drowns in its own filth.
Right up there with Pity Sex in "things that are impossible to say you're into without sounding like a creep." A fitting name, though, for these noise rock legends. Purveyors of punk snottiness, prog ambition, and sheer don't-give-a-fuck atonal freakouts, Smegma have blown back generations of wigs and melted minds with strange music. Just be careful when you you're searching for them on Google. Or YouTube. Anything visually based, really.
Vampire Weekend would be a great name for a wine retreat catering to the undead. "Hey all you can-do nosferatus! Come on down to Martha's Vineyard for a Vampire Weekend of wine tastings, cheese plates, midnight horse rides, and feeding on the underprivileged. Reserve your Airbnb coffin today!"
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We've seen a real pop-punk and emojified renaissance in recent years. Groups like The Menzingers, Jeff Rosenstock, Iron Chic, and The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die are producing catchy, anthemic records that marry personal ruminations and emotional vulnerability with scorching guitar heroics and musical experimentation. It's one of the few sectors of rock music left that still, well, rocks. Modern Baseball are exemplars of this co-mingling. Too bad they picked up a bad naming habit that's been going around: adjective/place + sporting activity. If you're trying to think of a name for your pop-punky band, resist the urge to call yourselves Kentucky Hockey or South American Water Polo or Hawaii Frisbee.