The late ’80s Sonic Youth side project, Ciccone Youth, covered Madonna’s Into the Groove, and it’s great.
Considering the band took its name from a mix of Sonic Youth and Mage’s surname, Ciccone, it shouldn’t be surprising they would cover one of her songs, but the results are still jarring and fantastic.
There is absolutely nothing not to love about this ramshackle version of Madonna’s smash-hit. The guitar drones menacingly, the distorted vocals are slurred with apathy, occasionally a soundbite of the original Madonna recording is dropped into the mix and, of course, the song’s chorus is still incredibly infectious.
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.
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.
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.
After the amazing Attack on Memory, expectations for The Cloud Nothings fourth album, Here and Nowhere Else, were stratospheric. The single, “I’m Not Part of Me”, which accompanied the album’s announcement did absolutely nothing to quell excitement.
It turns out the hype was absolutely justified. Here and Nowhere Else is so great it may actually be better than Attack on Memory.
Whereas Attack on Memory refuted the perception of Cloud Nothings’ perception as a one-man bedroom punk act, Here and Nowhere Else finds a compromise between both iterations of the band. The new Cloud Nothings record maintains the aggressive, fuller sound developed on its predecessor and applies it to the type of simple, dirty garage rock melodies abundant on early Cloud Nothings releases.
A perfect example of this duality is the 7-minute aggro-guitar freakout “Pattern Walks” preceding the album-closing lead single “I’m Not Part of me”.
The pairing of song-writing chops and ferocious sounds give this album a timeless quality. This is not to say the influence of ’90s bands such as Jawbreaker and Nirvana is no longer present. When Baldi yelps, “Swallow!” over fuzzed-out guitars and surging bass during “Giving into Seeing” it’s downright Cobain-ian.
However, throughout Here and Nowhere Else Cloud Nothings display such clear ownership of their sound it’s impossible to imagine any other band in any other time making this album.
On April 1, when Cloud Nothings officially release, Here and Nowhere Else, they will release the best album of their young careers, and what will likely be one of the year’s best releases.