Going through my collection the other day, I pulled out a record by one of the artists below. What a ridiculous band name, I thought. But damn if I didn’t absolutely love their music! And that gave me an idea: what ridiculous band names should be in your collection?
Why is Arab Strap ridiculous? Because it’s a sex toy. Given the name, you’d expect music overtly sexual, vastly controversial, and quirky in its own right. Right?
Mostly. Arab Strap’s music features melodic and oft dreamy instrumentation fronted by oft-romantically morose and typically out-of-tune vocals more spoken than sung. The sexual nature, at times, sifts back and forth between subtle and overt while typically being self-deprecating.
The band returned in 2021 with their first new release in well over a decade. That album was among my favorites last year. From that album came “Compersion Pt. 1” which is about taking home a newlywed unicorn couple to sleep with but battling with jealousy demons as the night proceeded.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Why is Brian Jonestown Massacre ridiculous? Because it’s a clever mashup of two infamous things. First, Brian Jones, the original founder and frontman of The Rolling Stones. Second, the Jonestown Massacre in which Peoples Temple cult leader Jim Jones led over 900 people to commit suicide in 1978.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre is the brain child of Anton Newcombe. Newcombe formed the band in 1990, creating shoegaze that fit with the era. They’ve been going at it ever since, though the BJM style has morphed substantially over the past three decades to include garage rock, psychedelic rock, folk rock, and even electronica.
Throughout it all, BJM’s sound has been experimental, and Newcombe has remained a somewhat controversial figure. For more on the latter, and for pure entertainment, check out The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols friends-turned-rivals music documentary Dig!
Why is it ridiculous? Because Bubble Puppy. What the hell does it even mean?!? (Hint: the reference is included in the link I added there, which goes to the band’s page on FensePost.)
Originally active between 1967 and 1972, their short tenure didn’t leave them without influence and clout. Their song “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass” was a top 20 hit. In his 2004 article with the same name as their hit song, Greg Beets wrote in the Austin Chronicle:
If the 13th Floor Elevators pioneered the psychedelic sound, Bubble Puppy connected it to the hard rock of the Seventies with their 1969 hit, “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass”“Hot Smoke & Sasafrass” [Greg Beets, The Austin Chronicle, 2004]
The 1969 Bubble Pubby album A Gathering of Promises was their only under the name, before it morphed into Demian for 1971’s self-titled Demian. From there, they disappeared into oblivion for a bit.
But that early Bubble Pubby release remains a highly sought after LP by collectors, and A Gathering of Promises is one of few albums to boast duplicates in my collection: a well-worn 1969 original, and a 1999 reissue.
Why is it ridiculous? Because Carissa’s Wierd purposefully misspelled the word “weird.” In the days of autocorrect, it’s practically impossible to type the band’s name correctly.
Carissa’s Wierd produced a handful of wonderfully lovely bedroom pop albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s before the members went their own way, including Songs About Leaving, You Should Be Hated Here, and Ugly But Honest.
There was a brief reunion and tour that culminated in a new single and reissues on vinyl and CD via Hardly Art, but that was it.
Why do they matter? Because the artists branched off to create a trove of other great music, from S. to Grand Archives to Sera Cahoone. But, the most widely known is Band of Horses.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
You could probably dub this bad the king of quirky modern psychedelic indie rock, simply due to how prolific they are. If I’m counting correctly, the band has at least two dozen full-length albums to their name since debuting on the scene in 2012. That alone is ridiculous!
Let’s zero in on 2017. The band release FIVE ALBUMS that year! FIVE!!!
One of those albums, Polygondwanaland, was released as a free album in which the band encouraged fans to produce their own physical copies with the statement:
Ever wanted to start your own record label? GO for it! Employ your mates, press wax, pack boxes. We do not own this record. You do. Go forth, share, enjoy.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard hails from Australia, which doesn’t surprise me for some reason. But DAMN if their name isn’t the most fun one on the list to say out loud! I’d give this one the crown for the most ridiculous band name on the list.
Neutral Milk Hotel
The name is weird, that’s for sure. But the band has had a tremendous amount of influence on the post-90s indie rock and indie pop scene. Their music is, for the underground music fan, quite legendary.
Part of the Elephant 6 Recording Company collective, the band drew its name from E6 founding member Will Cullen Hart, who suggested it after frontman Jeff Mangum discovered the original band name Milk was already in use.
On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea are essential additions to anyone who appreciates indie rock history and who has an affinity for influential artists from the 1990s.
Porridge Radio has gone on to make some pretty substantial waves in indie rock, giving us a sweet BBC Session LP (later in 2020) and an excellent pair of cover songs of The Shins and Wolf Parade as part of the latest Sub Pop Singles Club Volume 6.
Pure Bathing Culture
I mean…who in their right mind would name their band Pure Bathing Culture? Then again, you could probably ask that question about any of the band names on this list!
I only have one release by this duo in my collection (currently) and it’s their debut 2012 EP, produced by the late Richard Swift. I’ve always loved “Silver Shore’s Lake”
But, truly, I’ll forget about this album for a year or so, then pull it out of the collection and fall in love with all four songs all over again.
Suburban Kids with Biblical Names
Take the vocals, and to an extent the lyrical stylings, of The Magnetic Fields and filter them through the twee-ish indie pop sounds of Sweden, and you’ll come up with something like Suburban Kids with Biblical Names.
Like King Gizzard from earlier, this is a fun one to say: Suburban Kids with Biblical Names. I mean, it’s like the entirety of American children in the 1980s! Maybe even most of the 1990s and 2000s as well. And probably the 1970s.
The band only has a lone 7-inch single to their name, when it comes to vinyl. But they have a handful of CDs including the unoriginally titled #1, #2, and #3 (one of which is just an EP).
The band in question was Ultimate Spinach, and the album was their first one titled Ultimate Spinach. Yes, despite only existing three years (1967 to 1969) and releasing just three albums, Ultimate Spinach had two self-titled releases.
The first was given to us in 1968 and, like many of the era was a response to the war movement. Ultimate Spinach was a concept album based around the anti-war movement of its heyday, and today it remains among the greats in psychedelic rock.
Check out “(Ballad of the) Hip Death Goddess” below:
Why is it ridiculous? Because who in their right mind would name their band Ultimate Spinach? It’s just plain strange, and doesn’t inspire confidence. If I wasn’t familiar with what I noted above, I would never have picked up their record.
What Would You Add?
Take a look at your collection and let me know what you’d add to the list in the comments.
There are SO many out there, and the few I pulled from my collection is far from comprehensive. Maybe one of these days I’ll do a Part 2…