Chris Uggen's Blog: nothing's shocking

Sunday, June 29, 2008

nothing's shocking

george carlin's death has rekindled interest in his old bit about the seven words you can't say on television. slate offers another perspective on obscenity, considering bands that choose unprintably offensive names. this sort of thing probably doesn't qualify as an irrational act, since a putatively shocking name confers notoriety that, in turn, may confer rewards.

when dozens of bands choose such names, of course, they lose all capacity to shock. slate cites painfully uncreative examples, such as Holy F*ck, the F*ck Buttons, the F*cking Ocean, Sh*t Robot, Sh*tdisco, Holy Sh*t, and Psychedelic Horsesh*t. there's no art to these monikers (well, i do like the last one a little), but they're meant to convey a sense of willfull off-handedness -- we know the name of our band is sort of, like, stoopid, but that's the point innit? the whole idea of "names" for, like, "bands" is stoopid.

or maybe i'm giving 'em too much credit. i don't really care whether bands call themselves the f-bombs or whether the times prints their name in a review.* i get much more frustrated with arch hipster hate speech names than with plain vanilla profanity. slate cites AIDS Wolf and Jay Reatard -- names that "aren't literally profane, but ... flirt with a sophomoric crudeness."

that's why i was glad to read that one musician, brendan fowler, simply refused to appear on a bill with these artists:

"It would be like calling your band Jay Faggot," he says. "No one would let you call it that, but you can get away with calling it Jay Reatard." He canceled his performances at both concerts and put together an art show to challenge artists with inappropriate monikers and call for social accountability. It is currently hanging at Rivington Arms, a contemporary art gallery in New York. "

now that's a creative use of obscenity.

* for the record, i dropped a couple f-bombs in the american sociological review. the editors never questioned this usage and, to my knowledge, nobody who read the article ever mentioned it.**
** for the record, there is no evidence that anyone actually read this article.


At 6:46 AM, Blogger Dave P. said...

I was never comfortable with Rapeman, Steve Albini's post-Big Black band, for the same reasons.

I discussed band names with an old sociologist pal recently. The one obvious fact is that after 50 years of R&R, most (all?) of the simple band names have been taken. It's almost impossible to find a simple "The ____" that hasn't been taken. So you end up with silliness like Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.

We also thought it would be fun to chart band names through time, seeing how they vary with popular musical trends and current social conditions. SSLYBY probably would not have gone over so well during the punk era for various reasons.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger tina said...

My Social Problems article also has the f-bomb, plus the word that you can't call an umpire during a baseball game. Are we in some special club now?

At 11:29 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

that's a better example, dave. does anyone really hear that stuff and say, ooh...that's edgy?

tina, i'll teach you the secret handshake. i should get the reference, but you've stumped me on the umpire word. i always call the umps "blue," which they seem to like.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger tina said...

Oh, that's a reference to the scene in Bull Durham in which Crash gets kicked out of the game. When Annie hears on the radio that he was kicked out, she knew that he called him a c*#ks&#k3r.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Phil BC said...

The only thing shocking about contemporary bands (especially you emos) is the quality of the music ;P


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