“HEADS OF STATE, 8:15 p.m., Miller Lite Amphitheater *** Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant are performing again under one of the worst, most unimaginative band names in the history of bad band names.”
Every time I look at the Arkansas Times listings of musical groups performing around town I see names that are weird and unappealing. (“Weird” is not always the same thing as “imaginative,” incidentally.) What, I wondered, makes a grouping of familiar words such as “Heads of State” into one of the worst band names in the history of bad band names? For that matter, what makes any of these contemporary band names good or bad? They all seem pretty much of a piece, to me.
So I asked Lifestyle Editor Lindsey Millar. He told me.
“A good band name, much like the name of any work of art, is, above all, distinctive. It's one that's memorable, or today, one that's easily Google-able. Other possible good qualities: allusive, clever, funny, ironic, lyrical, revealing (as in sound or style). Heads of State sounds like a discarded name from the Doo-Wop era. And the idea behind it, that these former R&B bigwigs are convening for a summit-style concert tour, doesn't transcend a phrase with otherwise astoundingly dull connotations (government, old white men, the G10). * * * A bad band name could be too puny, ponderous, pretentious — there are endless negative qualities. Local and regional metal bands are usually the worst offenders. Here's a lineup coming up at a local metal club: Wolves in the Throne Room, Krallice, Storm of Light and Deadbird.”
Local band names that Millar likes include The Moving Front (“Filled with all the right sort of connotations for a fiery, almost revolutionary post-punk band”), Ace Spade and the Whores of Babylon (“Over-the-top camp from a band obsessed with ‘50s and ‘60s camp”) and Smoke Up Johnny (“An allusion to a famous quote from ‘The Breakfast Club,' an ‘80s movie about high school stereotypes. The band probably thinks it's a funny line and identifies, at least somewhat ironically, with the high school ne'er-do-well who says it. Plus, they all smoke, usually while performing.”)