Good (and Bad) Band Names

In almost every way, it’s the least important part of music, but, if you’re musically inept, band names are the only musical fun not requiring electricity. I’ve got electricity, but, you know, I want to talk about band names, anyway.

Dead Kennedys: I used to feel dirty just saying the name. I actually thought of corpses. But this name is perfect for the band: raging snarky non-conformists attacking mainstream society.

Bardo Pond: A place where itinerant story tellers get water? A place where a beardo can drop E? Actually, it’s something from the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo) followed by a word that sounds good with it (pond). Look, if you’re gonna choose a name that’s vaguely geographic, you’ve gotta do better than that.

The Besnard Lakes: On the one hand, it’s a psychedelic band with droning music (like Bardo Pond). On the other hand, it’s an actual geographic feature (unlike Bard Pond). And it sounds better. And it cleverly pluralizes the name. That’s how you do it.

Dengue Fever: It’s infectious. What more can I say?

Restiform Bodies: It’s a part of your brain responsible for proprioception and it’s the name of a somewhat frantic danceable hip hop group. You can’t dance well if you can’t tell where your body is (proprioception) or if you don’t have music. Really, you don’t need either, but only if you risk ridicule.

Dresden Dolls: Is it a set of toys miraculously preserved from a bombing? Are they ironically dressed goths? No to both, but it is a great name that also says very little about the band itself. I never forgot it once I heard it, though.

Afrika Bambaataa: Compared to Kevin Donovan (his birth name) it’s really exciting. The best part of the name is where it comes. Afrika? That comes from Africa. Trust me on this. It’s true. Bambaataa is an alternate spelling of a Zulu chief who led an armed rebellion against a poll tax in 1906. Today, in many places, that sounds extreme. The tax increase was dramatic and it did take place during a crappy economic times, but it was also the start of the long-running anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

Dum Dum Girls: An Iggy Pop reference! You can’t go wrong with that!

HEALTH: Her Extremely Apple Loving Tongue Healer? Help Eeyore And Little Tigger Hide? Oh, the capitalization doesn’t mean anything! OK. Now, I’m bored.

YACHT: Young Americans … huh? Oh, yeah. I already over-did that one …

Keep Shelly in Athens: It’s clever. See, there’s a part of Athens, Greece known as Kipsella and the band comes from Greece. Make a pun and there you go. It’s a nice way to be friendly to English-language music fans and still claim their origins. Get it? No? Well I still like the name.

TV on the Radio: It’s surreal. It’s recursive. It’s smart. It’s literally comprehensible, but also non-specific. As a special bonus, all the band members have interesting names, too.

50 Foot Wave: It’s a tsunami and it’s the limit of hearing. It’s also a rowdy smart punk band headed up by Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses). And it’s a damn good name.

Roomful of Teeth: Simply, the best name I’ve encountered recently. I’m not sure what it has to do with the group’s music, but I just don’t care.

2 thoughts on “Good (and Bad) Band Names

  1. Good bands with bad names: Butthole Surfers (instant classic), Pink Plastic + Panties, Life in the Fridge Exists, Leftover Crack (okay, it’s arguable if they’re good), Crispy Ambulance, Yeastie Girlz,, Inflatable Boy Clams…

    I liked your choices!

    • Thanks!

      Your mention of Yeastie Girlz was one of the motivators. That, and some grumpiness, a little laziness, and Roomful of Teeth.

      Crispy Ambulance! Yipes! That name alone is worth a listen!

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