Welcome to another installment of Ask A Music Critic! And thanks to everyone who has sent me questions. Please keep them coming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think is the greatest band of all-time with a terrible/dumb name? And conversely, what is the worst band in history with an awesome name? — Matt from Adelaide, Australia
The Beatles is a dumb pun. Led Zeppelin is a dumb pun. The Sex Pistols is a gross pun. The Clash sounds like the first entry on a “generic punk band names” list. Every band name is dumb if you think about it long enough.
That said, the absolute worst band name/greatest music combination for me has to be Arctic Monkeys, a band I avoided for years specifically because I thought the name was so stupid. There’s no way a band called Arctic Monkeys is going to last past an album or two. It made me think of the ’90s alterna-dance band Space Monkeys, a group that nobody remembers except as a punchline about bad ’90s alternative bands. Unless you’re The Monkees, don’t ever name your band after a primate.
Honorable mention goes to Drive-By Truckers, one of the greatest southern-rock bands ever with a moniker that sounds like a Jeff Foxworthy joke. Even Patterson Hood has expressed regret about coming up with that name. “It’s like those hippies that name their kids Moonflower. Years later, you go, ‘Goddamn, I wish my parents hadn’t named me that,’” he told me in 2014.
As for a terrible band with a cool name… this one is actually harder to answer. Bands with terrible taste in music tend to also have terrible taste in band names: Five Finger Death Punch, Cobra Starship, Hinder, Imagine Dragons, 3OH!3, LMFAO, Puddle Of Mudd, and so on. Bad bands have unwittingly high ethics when it comes to truth in advertising.
But if I had to pick one, I guess I wish that 311 had been reserved for a trio of 11-year-olds who play hardcore.