Here’s how it works
In an attempt to prove once and for all that bands need to be far more careful when choosing their names, we’ve rummaged through the CMJ schedule and handpicked 10 bands we’ve never heard of, and, before actually listening to their music, given each a speculative review based solely on their chosen moniker. Continue reading to see if our judges, Mike Conklin and Emilie Luse, were on point.
Now let’s meet the contestants
CONTESTANT NUMBER 1
Their Name: Probably Vampires
Our Judges’ Reaction: Probably!? As if you couldn’t tell from the fangs and the pallid faces? A group of high school seniors who wear capes, watch Troma films and are into the Cure, but were embarrassed about it the night before they had to file their band name for the CMJ festival entries. .
The Verdict: Dead wrong. These are approachable twenty-somethings who are so afraid to use four-letter words that their latest release is called Dang. Grand, harmonized power-pop in the New Pornographers tradition.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 2
Their Name: The Mall
Our Judges’ Reaction: Everyone’s favorite place to go to second base. This band is going to be awesome.
The Verdict: Their whimsical sputtering organ chords sound like Deerhoof, but the cockney Flogging Molly vocals put the whole sound off balance. Then you find out they’re from San Francisco and it hurts even more.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 3
Their Name: Child Abuse
Our Judges’ Reaction: Clearly, this is either a moronic metal band obsessed with Marilyn Manson-style shock-rock or an equally moronic post-everything instrumental band that…wait, nevermind. Honestly? We have no idea what this could possibly be all about.
The Verdict: So they do this fucked-up, mostly instrumental metal thing that is almost as frightening as the prospect of actual child abuse.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 4
Their Name: The Awkward Stage
Our Judges’ Reaction: These guys wear their lack of credentials on their sleeve. They’re humble about still being in their formative days as a band, but pretentious enough to try for a play on words, like the Decemberists with an inferiority complex.
The Verdict: Whoa, these guys aren’t joking about being awkward! From the band site: “Youth crushed me. All I could do was play music and goof off to cope.” Although the xylophones were predictable, they’re more sincere than expected. Less literary, more falsetto, like the Shins or Kings of Convenience.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 5
Skeletons & The Girl Faced Boys
Our Judges’ Reaction: This is an easy one. Just think about it: Picture a sickeningly skinny lead singer, all adam’s apple and protruding ribs. Now picture four more of them and admire their perfectly applied mascara and naturally beautiful soft skin. This, people, can only be one thing: emo.
The Verdict: Wrong again. This will definitely appeal more to all the freak-folk kids: weird, lo-fi pop with electronic touches keeping things interesting.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 6
Their Name: Made Out of Babies
Our Judges’ Reaction: The band came up with this name after an anarcho (little ‘a’!) anti-racism, fascism, sexism, able-ism meeting at their local co-op/squat. They were eating dumpster-dived donuts with jelly filling and the one of them who wasn’t vegan asked what gelatin is made of. This is the answer.
The Verdict: Not entirely wrong, but they’re not political. Like a thick Alice in Chains jungle safari, with a screaming female lead singer.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 7
Their Name: Colour Revolt
Our Judges’ Reaction: We will bet you one million dollars that the people in this band are not from a country that typically employs the “ou” in words such as color or favorite. In fact, they’re probably from New Jersey and grew up taking the wrong side in the great Oasis vs. Blur feud of the mid-90s. (That would be the Oasis side.)
The Verdict: So they’re not from New Jersey, but they’re not exactly from the other side of the pond either (Mississippi). Nor are they the Brit-pop-loving tools we thought they’d be. In fact, their dreamy indie-pop is enjoyable—perfect for fans of the New Year.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 8
Their Name: Supastition
Our Judges’ Reaction: This could go one of two ways. A co-worker suggested that perhaps we’re dealing with a Stevie Wonder/Rick James kind of thing, which would be awesome, obviously. We think it’s more likely, though, that the misspelling is indicative of a late-90s nu-metal thing, which is considerably less awesome. We’re thinking five-string bass, lots of screaming and a double-bass drum pedal.
The Verdict: How did we not see this coming? Like all the great misspellers before him, Supastition is actually a rapper. And a talented one at that, specializing in the innocent boasting from the genre’s early days. Sample lyric: “She know my sex will last longer than Rachael Ray meals.”
CONTESTANT NUMBER 9
Their Name: International Playboys
Our Judges’ Reaction: Now that every shitty band on the planet cites the Smiths and Morrissey as its biggest influence, we’re gonna go ahead and assume these folks named themselves after Moz’s brilliant ‘The Last of the Famous International Playboys’. The sound? Emo/pop-punk nonsense, but the kind where the sickeningly skinny, dark-haired singer has an embarrassingly over-developed flare for the dramatic.
The Verdict: So we were wrong, but it’s not like we would have missed out on much. They’re one of those “hard-drinkin’” classic rock bands who make a bigger deal about their “crazy” stage presence than their actual songs.
CONTESTANT NUMBER 10
Their Name: About
Our Judges’ Reaction: Finally. This band is at the outer limits of irony, the completely banal. The most “user-friendly-tech” sounding name possible. It’s like calling a band AskJeeves or Excel. This has got to be a noise outfit that combines the bleeps, the creeps and the sweeps from the Space Balls radar-tech guy with feedback, heavy drums, and bad Casio tones.
The Verdict: They do use electronics, but not in a way that is obtrusive to melody. They sound like the Rapture enhanced by break-core with a great big nod to traditional punk rock.