The List: Top 10 good bands with bad names

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From the August 15, 2013 edition

What’s in a name, you ask? These acts have endeared so many fans with their music that you may overlook just how awful their names are. We didn’t.

10. The Smashing Pumpkins

Yes, it’s THE Smashing Pumpkins — like THE Ohio State University — which makes this sound like a pompous Brit talking about some particularly great pumpkins. They also influenced another fine band with a bad name: Silversun Pickups.

9. My Morning Jacket

It Still Moves and Z are fantastic records without exception, but this band name leaves much to be desired. And not surprisingly, the frontman managed to one-up the bad band name with that whole Yim Yames fiasco.

8. Butthole Surfers

Gibby Haynes and Co.’s Texas sensory-overload psychedelic freakout was a blast. Their name was a joke only a fifth-grader could love. Dammit, Beavis.

7. Vampire Weekend

With the impossibly catchy “Diane Young” winning over even haters of its Ivy League vibe, it’s a good time to reflect on how bad this name is. We are, like, so over vampires, you guys.

6. GZA

Why couldn’t one of Wu-Tang’s most talented members just gone by The Genius — or possibly just Genius — instead of a RZA sound-a-like that evokes skeet-skeet?

5. Godspeed You! Black Emperor

This Canadian post-rock instrumental band creates some of the most stirring, sweeping music you’ll hear, but their name (derived from a Japanese biker gang documentary) is an egregious violation of our rule against unnecessary punctuation in band names. Strangely, it’s like two better band names smashed together.

4. Death Cab for Cutie

There’s a reason fans shorten it to “Death Cab.” Ben Gibbard himself told TimeOut Chicago in 2011, "The name was never supposed to be something that someone was going to reference 15 years on. So yeah, I would absolutely go back and give it a more obvious name.”

3. Eminem

He may be one of the most talented rappers in the game, and we get that it’s your initials, but did you really have to go with a moniker related to the candy? If it’s because of the whole “melts in your mouth, not in your hand” tagline, that’s just sophomoric.

2. Neutral Milk Hotel

Jeff Mangum and his bandmates were responsible for one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the ’90s — and have finally returned from a lengthy hiatus. They were also responsible for a nonsensical mishmash name that feels like a bad Japanese translation.

1. The Beatles

The world considers the Fab Four the greatest band, ever (with good reason). But the pun-based name is just terrible. And if the pun is left out, the name becomes Kafkaesque.