A Cynic Writes...
Name Your Poison
With the death of rock and roll, comes the death of decent band names, which have descended into labyrinthine coils of self-reference, bluff, navel-gazing and double-bluff. 'Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine' - do they mean it? 'Therapy?' - possibly the most pretentious name ever. 'Ned's Atomic Dustbin' - not funny; 'Pop Will Eat Itself' - thank you, NME: accurate, but so ugly. And we won't mention the host of indecipherable initials, serial numbers and zip-codes in the wake of hip-hop, techno and house.
Abject silliness came to the fore at around the same time that people stopped caring, but still provided some entertaining monikers which actually announced that there was no meaning in these labels anymore: 'Blancmange' - like a defiant pie in the face; 'It's Immaterial' - superbly simple, the ultimate negation; and, of course, the blank, literal definitive, only possible post-punk: 'The The', and 'The Pop Group'. It's a tradition that continues apace on the indie scene, a blanket free-for-all with all the symptoms of rampant avant-gardism, a cultural cul-de-sac with no signposts. Only 'MC 900ft Jesus' has rekindled something of the true sense of the absurd, all but invisible against an absurd backdrop.
Names from the psychedelic era retain a naive, surreal charm - 'Pink Floyd'; 'Tangerine Dream'; 'Iron Butterfly' - relying either on the juxtaposition of opposing images, or just plain colour schemes that wouldn't look out of place now in a Dulux catalogue. But the real Golden Age was the new wave, with a host of genuinely sleazy, media-literate or just plain short and shocking handles: 'The Clash'; 'Television'; 'Magazine'; The Buzzcocks'; The Vibrators'; and my personal favourite - 'Any Trouble'. There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon when cool brevity returned via 'Curve', 'Lush', and 'Bleach'; but then what happens? 'New Fast Automatic Daffodils', that's what. They Might Be Giants, but they must be joking.