A Brief History of Controversy-Courting Band Names

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Tomorrow marks the release of Strapped, the new album by Californian noiseniks The Soft Pack. (You can stream the record at Spin right now, if you’re so inclined.) For those not familiar with the band’s history, they used to be known as The Muslims, a name that caused them all sorts of predictable problems and was eventually ditched in favor of their current moniker circa 2009. So, to celebrate The Soft Pack’s new record, we thought we’d look at some of music’s other great controversy-courting band names. Warning: naughty words abound.

The Muslims

According to the band themselves, they chose this name for no particular reason, and changed it because they got “exhausted by all of the ignorant, often racist, bullshit that came out of people’s mouths during shows/interviews/conversations.” It’s kinda sad that calling yourself something as simple as “The Muslims” is inherently controversial in the 21st century — we can’t imagine that calling yourself The Zoroastrians or something would have quite the same effect. But anyway, these days, the band are called The Soft Pack, a name that apparently refers to “a fake flaccid penis that can be worn in the trousers of someone who doesn’t have a penis that wants to convince people otherwise.” Which is much better, clearly.

Dead Kennedys

Jello Biafra’s glee in getting a rise out of the establishment was made clear the moment his band stepped on stage for the first time and announced that they were called the Dead Kennedys. There have been plenty far more obscene and offensive band names in the world of punk, but few more guaranteed to aggravate lawmakers and authority figures across the country.

Joy Division

Named after the terrifying Orwellian euphemism for women kept in concentration camps for the sexual pleasure of Nazi soldiers. Ugh.

Pussy Riot

One of the more bizarre sideshows of the whole sorry Pussy Riot “trial” was watching uptight media outlets finding ways to avoid mentioning the band’s name — our favorite was the LA Times calling them “members of a feminist punk group with a profane name,” which only goes to remind us that as far as the mainstream media goes, vaginas are DIRTY. Sigh. Anyway, given how publicity-savvy Pussy Riot have proven, we’re sure that their choice of an English-language band name, rather than Russian, was no accident — it’s hard to imagine their detention would have attracted quite as much attention in the West if they went by some obscure Russian moniker.

Suicide

As if songs like “Frankie Teardrop” and Alan Vega brandishing a motorcycle chain onstage weren’t scary enough, there’s the fact that Suicide were called, well, Suicide. We’re not sure why they were never especially controversial, actually — perhaps because they were never commercially successful enough to warrant the outrage of the moral majority.

Gay Dad

Does anyone remember these guys? Former NME journalist briefly anointed by his ex-employers as the savior of rock ‘n’ roll? Self-consciously controversial band name? Huge marketing campaign? Debut album that stiffed colossally? We actually saw them at the Astoria in about 1998, and boy, did they ever suck.

Jihad Against America

The Soft Pack may have stumbled into controversy, but we can’t imagine that this now-defunct anarchist collective from Australia were doing anything apart from shit-stirring with this name. These days, several erstwhile Jihadists are in a band that goes by the slightly less provocative name Assassination Collective.

Holy Fuck, Fuck Buttons, Fucked Up, Jackie-O Motherfucker, etc.

A sure-fire way to attract attention to your band is to include the word “fuck” in its name. Pros: outraged mothers, inclusion in articles like this. Cons: no chance of being played on the radio. (Our all-time favorite of this ilk, incidentally, is Australian pub rock rabble-rousers The Fuck Fucks.)

The Revolting Cocks

Then, of course, there’s just being flat-out vile, which is also guaranteed to the get people like the PMRC’s collective backs up. (See also: Lubricated Goat, Cannibal Corpse, The Dayglo Abortions, most of JG Thirlwell’s “Foetus” permutations.) Still, for all that these are at least mildly nauseating when you actually think about them, they still pale in comparison to…

Anal Cunt

Obviously.