The quality of a band’s name can be entirely inconsequential to a band’s sound.
Plenty of great bands have awful names. Arguably the greatest band of all-time, The Beatles, has one of the worst names. It’s a groan worthy pun inspired by a seminal band that came before them.
Even when bands’ names seem inextricably linked to their sound there might be more disconnect than first imagined.
For example, everyone knows Trent Reznor named his brooding, industrial band Nine Inch Nails in reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s a dark name to match a bleak band with a penchant for goth aesthetic.
Except, as Reznor has revealed in interviews, the Nine Inch Nails moniker has almost no meaning.
Usually you think you have a great one and you look at it the next day and it’s stupid. I had about 200 of those. Nine Inch Nails lasted the two week test, looked great in print, and could be abbreviated easily. It really doesn’t have any literal meaning.
Still, band names are important. Would anyone have paid attention to Anal Cunt’s incessant unpleasant, vulgar trolling if they weren’t named, well, Anal Cunt?
A great or incendiary name can turn large swaths of demographics on or off of a group’s music before even pressing play.
This can lead people toward or away from great music.
If someone recognizes Modest Mouse take their name from an allusion to Virginia Woolfe, loves Woolfe and decides to check out their music then everyone wins.
A well-named band attracted a well-read listener to well-made music.
However, not every band is so fortunate. These are five bands making great, or in some cases at least serviceable music, whose names may have caused controversy, but are absolutely worth a listen.
Each band’s name has its own brand of controversy in order to keep this from turning into a fuck music fest.
1. Perfect Pussy
With an almost unprintable name and a sound reliant on screeching noise and feedback it’s easy to dismiss them as an aggro band desperate for attention.
However, there’s a reason Perfect Pussy is every critic’s favorite blog buzz band at the moment, and that is the tight, bracing tunes hiding under all the violent fuzz.
Their new album, Say Yest to Love, is the sort of scathing, distorted 28-minute violent outburst that makes the world a better place.
Plus, the band’s name, aesthetic, lyrics and wonderfully abrasive sound are all most likely part of a feminist or post-feminist Statement I’m wildly unqualified to comment on. At the very least, this band has something to say, and right now, they’re speaking very loudly.
2. Fucked Up
It’s documented that I think Fucked Up are great but it’s not just me. Despite sometimes having to be billed as Pu Dekcuf, this is a band boasting a metacritic score of 81–everyone who moves past their profane name loves this band. If you like any type of rock music there’s most likely a song in their body of work from you. Fucked Up have range from yowling post-hardcore to Tommy-esque full-bodied rock opera.
To top it all off, Fucked Up is absolutely tremendous live.
3. The Soft Pack (The Muslims)
At first glance these San Diego garage rockers don’t seem to fit the common theme. Unless of course, you Google their name. Under a picture of the band in large bold type is a cutline reading The Muslims.
The Muslims was The Soft Pack’s original name, and it was under this name they released their best work 2009’s The Muslims EP. Ultimately, their name caused enough controversy to warrant a change.
The Soft Pack favor a flavor of snotty garage rock in the same vein as their San Diego peer, WAVVES, and their music is not at all indicative of their early name.
4. Pop Etc. (The Morning Benders)
Before finding out that bender is slang for something entirely different across the pond, Pop Etc. were known as The Morning Benders, and they released two excellent albums under that name. Even the American definition of a bender made this name a poor fit for the band.
The Morning Bender’s music was notable for sensitive vocals, melodic jangle, deep percussion and its ’60s influence. Notably absent from that list are the face shredding power chords their original name would suggest.
The Morning Bender’s first album, Talking Through Tin Cans, is a simple jangle pop album and an absolute pleasure, and their second album, Big Echo, was even a bit of a critical darling.
The change to Pop Etc. was marked with a heartfelt release on the band’s official website and a subsequent departure toward a more electronic sound.
5. Joy Division
Famously, Joy Dision were named after a Nazi prostitution wing.
They are one of the most influential bands of the ’80s with genres from post-punk to goth to dance music owing some facet of their style to this band.
Although the music of Joy Division could be bleak it never really hit the depths of morose perversion the word cluster Nazi prostitution ring would suggest.
After the suicide of lead singer, Ian Curtis, Joy Division re-branded themselves as New Order, and resumed making awesome music. As New Order the surviving members attained a staggering amount of commercial success.