Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A "Punk In Drublic" By Any Other Name

By CL * Other CL Posts

Two posts in to my blogging career, and I'm already falling back on a music post. It was sparked by my big musical discovery of the week: Get Yr Blood Sucked Out by Viva Voce. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, since apparently the album came out in 2006. I don't know how long it will be in heavy rotation for me, but I'm liking it so far. They're one of those bands whose songs go from quiet intros to soaring crescendoes (with the occasional hand-clapping jaunt thrown in), and it may be the case that I haven't listened to it enough to get tired of all of their songs sort of sounding the same.

Here's how I discovered it. While wading through my usual morass of music blogs (how else am I going to get through a 2-hour Evidence class followed immediately by a 2-hour Private Investment Funds class?), I tend to download the sample songs that fall into one of these categories: 1) bands I already know; 2) bands whose names I keep seeing everywhere, and need to see what all the fuss is about; 3) bands that receive enthusiastic praise from one or two sources; and 4) bands or songs with names I find amusing.

Surprisingly enough, I am rarely disappointed by songs in category 4. I'm often disappointed in the songs I download because one blog described them in glowing terms (category 3) - they tend to be too idiosyncratic. Songs in category 2 are usually there for a reason, and category 1 needs no explanation.

So what did Viva Voce do to catch my eye? They had a song called "We Do Not Fuck Around," with a chorus of "Hey y'all! We do not fuck around!" Obviously, they couldn't get away with this without having good music to back it up, and they do. But that's my point: somehow, the music I download based solely on the name ends up being consistently good.

Other recent examples include Kittens Ablaze, Air France ("Collapsing At Your Doorstep"), Black Milk, Ida Maria ("I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked"), Kid Cudi (the whole Man in the Moon mixtape, but "Embrace the Martian" first caught my eye), Los Campesinos! ("This Is How You Spell 'HAHAHA, I've Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux Romantics,'" among other titles), and Throw Me The Statue. The first band I ever discovered on the internet - The Mountain Goats - was a product of the same process, though I don't remember which song it was in particular (my money's on No Children, for the record). And of course NOFX, as referenced in the title of this post, would be included, though my love of them predates the internet.

This doesn't apply to all my music discoveries. Some last year's best (Charles Hamilton, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Wale) have names that didn't do much for me; if the "good name = good song" thing held, Fall Out Boy would be my favorite band of all time.

But there are two lessons here. One is that my musical tastes may be a bit shallow, possibly because I'm usually doing something else while I listen to music. Or maybe I like the generally playful nature of bands willing to put such titles on their songs and albums. On a related note, I like bad puns.

The other lesson is a bit more profound, and goes beyond "bands should try to give their songs interesting titles." The whole Long Tail phenomenon has been discussed ad infinitum (and this point has probably been made elsewhere), but the point to me is that even if there are bands (authors, educators, preachers, lifestyle gurus) that appeal to every taste, they must be found by their consumers. This can happen through better searching on the part of the consumer (be it through a more extensive search or a more efficient search), or by better advertising on the part of the product, including through naming choices. The only side of that that's controlled by the artist/producer is the naming choice, so they should really put a little more effort into it.


  1. "mitch better have my bunny" by the jazz guitarist charlie hunter is probably my favorite song title.

  2. the band Say Hi To Your Mom is all over this. A quickly gathered assortment of some of their song titles: "The Forest Scares The Hell Out of Me", "The Pimp and the Sparrow", & "Yeah, I'm in Love with an Android".