THE NAME GAME 

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 nine 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 Mark Asch, were on point.

1. WISE INTELLIGENT

THE ASSUMPTION

Wise Intelligent is a purveyor of remarkably self-righteous, conscious hip-hop. He’s obsessed with the positivity of Common and Talib Kweli, hell, even Kanye, to an extent, but he owes it all to A Tribe Called Quest, and he knows it: His first single features a sample lifted from ‘What?’

THE REALITY
Bingo. It might be more Roots than Tribe, but it’s certainly conscious hip-hop, as evidenced by the MySpace headline, “It’s no LONGER smart to be DUMB” (emphasis his).


2. ME TALK PRETTY

THE ASSUMPTION
A band of barely post-collegiate kids who have decent taste in music, along the lines of early R.E.M. and maybe Hüsker Dü, but who are still too young to realize that David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day is still far too new to reference in your band name. They’re fine, but they’ll break up as soon as one of ‘em gets a promotion at the marketing firm he works for.

THE REALITY
Eek. Turns out they’re a nondescript, female-fronted alt-rock band that would have been right at home on mainstream radio in 1998.


3. THE SHOW IS THE RAINBOW

THE ASSUMPTION
A lifelong dreamer content to live inside his own beautiful, complicated head, the lead singer of The Show Is The Rainbow was lost until he discovered the Polyphonic Spree back in high school. Now he’s got his very own band, and while he’s held on to some of that child-like idealism, he’s realized that the Polyphonic Spree are actually really shitty, and his songwriting has benefited greatly. Think the Arcade Fire, as fronted by Conor Oberst.

THE REALITY
Not at all what I expected. It’s a one-man band from Omaha doing a very computerized brand of dance-pop. Occasionally fun, often annoying.

4. YAK BALLS

THE ASSUMPTION
I mean, I don’t know. I honestly just don’t know. Who could possibly think this is ok? Side note: If for nothing else, Yak Ballz should be admired for trying to start a new trend in the ongoing animals-in-band-names thing, now that bears and wolves are totally played out. It’ll be pretty awesome when every third band to play in the city is called Yak something or other.

THE REALITY
Yak Ballz is an indie-minded rapper who’s actually been hanging around with the Def Jux crowd for quite a while, and I feel sorta stupid for not knowing him. Good stuff.

5. AIDS Wolf

THE ASSUMPTION
So, we already talked about the Wolf thing with ol’ Yak Ballz a minute ago — it’s over. Everyone knows that. And I have a sneaking suspicion AIDS Wolf know it too. Fed up with all the unoriginal indie rock bands out there, they’re using AIDS as a final nail in the annoying trend’s coffin. Who’s dumb enough to let this joke live beyond the comforts of their rehearsal space? Why, a straightforward rock band full of big, beer-drinking dudes with moustaches and wife-beaters.

THE REALITY
Totally off-base. They’re a borderline unlistenable but strangely invigorating noise-rock band from Montreal. We were just informed that their old press photos featured the band naked, covered in flour.

6. SEX WITH AN ANGEL

THE ASSUMPTION
These dudes are from Baltimore. They wear tons of eye-liner, play sparkly Gibson Les Pauls and admit to no one that they were actually really popular in high school, as it would rob them of their cred and leave them with no hope of ever capturing the hearts, minds and hard-earned dollars of all the My Chemical Romance fans they’re so desperately courting. Hell, they may not even win over the 30 Seconds to Mars fans.

THE REALITY
Well, we knew something good had to come of this. We just stumbled upon the new band from Joel Bravo, formerly of the excellent and now-defunct New York band Bravo Silva. Sex With An Angel is more stripped down than Bravo Silva and perhaps a bit more playful. Bravo’s sense of melody continues to impress.

7. SLAVES FOR GRAVITY

THE ASSUMPTION
Another band in a long line of Pavement / Steve Malkmus descendents, Slaves To Gravity are self-aware enough to laugh at their own deep-seated pessimism, jokingly lamenting their long-held sense that everything is keeping them down (get it?!). It’s all just a little too obvious, though, and their lack of subtlety shines through in their songs, which are musically unadventurous and full of cringe-worthy lyrics.

THE REALITY
I know nothing and it appears Slaves to Gravity were not even trying to be funny with their name. They sound like Alice in Chains.

8. ASSEMBLE HEAD IN SUNBURST SOUND

THE ASSUMPTION
The Decemberists hinted at a love of prog-rock on their last album, and these dudes are taking it one step further. They straight-up love Rush, and they’re not afraid to show it. The drummer is heavily influenced by Neil Peart, and has even taken an active interest in libertarianism. He’s been writing lyrics, but the singer-guitarist refuses to sing them, because they’re totally creepy and senselessly cruel. They will break up before their CMJ show.

THE REALITY
Ok, not exactly prog. They say they came together due to a shared love of “Mudhoney and Pink Floyd,” which I guess makes sense.

9. DRUGDEALER CHEERLEADER

THE ASSUMPTION
No way in hell is there even a single girl in this band. The back-bleacher wit that brought these guys together — along with a shared love of the Pixies and that entire generation of Boston also-rans — deserts them in the presence of femininity, leaving them shy, stammering, and sensitive, and making even their cover of ‘Last Splash’ sound skittish and whispery.

THE REALITY
Oh, dear, it turns out that England didn’t get the memo about how nobody actually really liked Mötley Crüe. We were right about there not being any girls in the band — unless you count the groupies enlisted to gyrate and wave pom-poms onstage at all the band’s gigs. Really.


ANSWERS!
  
A. Me Talk Pretty
B. AIDS Wolf
C. Yak Balls 
D. Assemble Head in Sunburst Cloud
E. Drugdealer Cheerleader
F. The Show Is The Rainbow
G. Sex With An Angel
H. Wise Intelligent
I. Slaves For Gravity

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