5 worthwhile bands with controversial names

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.

A tough concept to grasp

There are few traditions in music as openly derided as the concept album.

They have a reputation for being too long, too verbose, grandstanding too much and sacrificing song quality to serve an album’s theme. These perceptions are considered doubly true when the concept album in question is a double album or rock opera.

Even legendary efforts such as The Who’s “Tommy”and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” are usually used as shorthand for overstuffed bombast or to exemplify empty calories music.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. This is a short list of some good, great and all-time classic concept albums.

These are concept albums for people who normally hate concept albums.

1. The Beatles- “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

A psychedelic, classic rock album is typically not the direction one should look when searching for a lean listen, but “Sgt. Pepper’s” clocks in at just under 40 minutes. The album is filled with classic songs, poppy hooks and is one of the most exalted albums in the oeuvre of the greatest band ever. Only the Beatles could close an album with a song featuring an orchestra and dog whistle without feeling even slightly excessive.

2. Cloud Nothings- “Attack on Memory”

Cloud Nothings started as a catchy, lofi solo project by Dylan Baldi, but on “Attack on Memory” they had matured into a full-fledged band. As the title suggests this album set out to attach previous conceptions of what the Cloud Nothings were. Also, songs tend to be thematically focused on battling with the past. This theme encapsulates everything from overcoming lingering memories of failed relationships to accepting failure to realize past goals. Sludgy guitars and Albini-produced dry drums let the sound quality match the quality of the song writing. “Attack on Memory” is a hook-laden, angry, wonderful concept album,

3. Fucked Up- “David Comes to Life”

With blaring guitars, multiple characters and female guest vocals there is no mistaking this for anything than a Rock Opera.

However, “David Comes to Life” is to Rock Operas what Thomas Pynchon is to novelists. There are multiple unreliable narrators, the fourth wall is shattered and substantial stylistic shifts. Without a guide it is almost impossible to actually follow the plot.

Also, the topics of death, love, loss pessimism and faith are dealt with in a mature measured way. This is particularly surprising for a band called Fucked Up.

4. Candy Claws- “Ceres and Calypso in Deep Time”

This albums is the chronicle the adventures of an adolescent girl and her prehistoric seal-like companion through time. It is entirely impossible to deduce this from listening to the album. This dream-pop album is so reverb intensive the vocals are barely present over the shimmering buzz. Just kick back and enjoy the pretty grooves.

5.   Titus Andronicus- “The Monitor”

This is a gruff, thoughtful punk album with a novel premise. “The Monitor” takes its name from a Civil War era submarine, and it is a breakup album that parallels a relationship’s end with the war between the states. The album is funny, painful and honest. Its references range from Shakespreare to the Gettysburg Address to “The Dark Knight” to Bruce Springsteen. Plenty of the songs have a running time in excess of five minutes, but they never wear out their welcome.

6. The White Stripes- “Elephant” 

According to Jack White this album is dedicated to the death of the sweetheart. This theme is far from heavy handed, but it does provide a thread through all of its songs. I’ve extolled this album’s virtues many times, but I can never recommend it enough.

7. Jay Z- “American Gangster” 

This is definitely Jay Z’s best post-“Black Album” work. It loosely mirrors the Denzel Washington movie of the same name, but instead of real-life gangster Frank Lucas it focuses primarily on Jay Z’s own meteoric rise. It features some of latter day Jay Z’s hungriest rapping and slick production. The songs even hold up when performed live.