Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Law of Inverse Proportion

I've been getting a lot of new Facebook friends these days. It's a good thing. Actually they're old friends who've resurfaced after a decade or two(or even three). Most all are musicians, one in particular wrote some songs I liked back in the 80's. Red Spots and Rhesus Monkey were two of my favorites.

I remember being at a party at his house in which I discovered an album by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. In case you didn't know, that's my favorite band name. Well, as a 20-something-year-old, I liked(and still like)verbal cleverness(even of the groaner variety) and a certain degree of spit-in-yer-eye irreverence. I begged my friend to put the album on.

Five minutes later(if that)I was begging him to take the album off! Absolutely unlistenable. I remember thinking at the time something along the lines of a tracheotomy set to music. Like having your throat ripped out. I try to be as open-minded as possible(and after going to music school, the weird-o-meter was definitely maxxed out as far as being exposed to different shall we say approaches), but there is some stuff out there that I just plain can't handle. And apparently, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks is such a group. My threshold for them was about the same as in my lone experience with chewing tobacco. Ptooey!!

But this was something of an epiphany for me. It was in this moment that I discovered the Law of Inverse Proportion. The quality of band name is in inverse proportion to the quality of the music. In other words, the better the name, the worse the music. And, conversely, the worse the name the better the music.

Case in point: Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Wonderful name, horrid music. My second favorite band name is Scum, and they're almost as unlistenable- though I must say, when I heard them their guitarist was giving it a good effort. These two groups are the apex and nadir, with wonderful names and abysmal music. They represent the extremes. The negative/positive extremes.

Conversely, The Beatles are arguably the best band ever(with a little help from their friends-most notably George Martin), and their band name is just about the lamest ever. It's like the jokes you read in Modern Maturity(useta be in the waiting room at a music store where I gave guitar lessons). Example: Where do sheep get their hair cut? At the baah-baah shop. The beat-les. Sheesh.

So, once again, the Law of Inverse Proportion. Wonderful band, dreadful name. The apex of musical accomplishment and the nadir of verbal imagination. Similarly, another example(and itself within a certain proportion) is the Doobie Brothers. A good band- though perhaps not a great one- with a dumb(but not abysmally dumb) name. Thus the name 'doobie brothers' is really just sort of trendily jejune(like the Furry Freak Brothers), lacking the benumbing groan power of 'beat-les', but then they didn't reach the artistic heights either.

It's all proportionate. Good band- dumb name. Real good band- real dumb name. Great band- a name that can shatter glass.

Of course you could have tastes completely contrary to mine, or otherwise be from a Parallel Universe, in which case you'd just read this in reverse, so to speak. The Beatles? Ugh. But what a cool bandname..