Staff Top 10
Top Ten Band Names To Drop to Blag Your Way Into Cool Music Circles

sometimes you have no idea what you are talking about. When it comes to music, this happens more often than not. There are so many genres, sub-genres, band names to remember, the right ones to forget, the most important labels--all weaving a labyrinth of terminology and knowledge that even etymologists have to stop and catch their breaths. Compound that with the fact that this level of knowledge is usually the stomping ground of geeks. And when you see a geek, the whiff of pedant is never far. So you may find yourself in a music mire from which nothing, barring a furious but clandestine search of ILM, will save you. Enter this list: where we have given you the names to drop and also provided sample sentences for your blagging ease. Armed with this and a black Velcro satchel full of rare, special edition vinyl –you’ll be walking the walk and geeking the talk in no time.


Prolific, noisy, pretentious and most importantly Japanese – this act is a blagger’s paradise. Named after an affected yet noteworthy artist (Kurt Schwitters) work, Akita even recently released a 50 (!) CD set. Musos live for giant box sets. Basically noise and “scum” from everyday life, this nutjob, and sometimes his wife, makes shedloads of music about sexual fetishes, writes books about satanic metal and mostly act way too God damn avant-garde for theirs, or frankly anyone’s, good. We didn’t even have to make our sample sentence up - someone actually said it. This is what we are dealing with here people. The key is that it doesn't matter what you say about Merzbow, as long as you mention your project in the sentence, you’ll be fine.

“My recorded output as the Alienist probably would never exist if not for the incredible experience of first hearing the 'Batztoutai with Memorial Gadgets' double LP in 1986.”


An exemplary 80s indie band, Felt remained semi-obscure almost on purpose, as their career moves tended toward puzzling, if not outwardly suicidal. No slouch in aloof hipness, Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch champions the band every chance he gets, and a recent Felt reissue campaign has made it even easier to blag yourself into all the right circles. Dropping specialist knowledge about the truly oddball Lawrence—Felt’s driving force and main songwriter—is the key here. Try the story about how Lawrence famously refused to let anyone use the toilet in his house unless it was only to urinate, often demanded proof of such, and once ejected some Melody Maker hacks because he thought one of them was taking suspiciously too long in there. P.S. The music is brilliant, but everyone knows that, so act like you do too.

“Lawrence dropped a track from that reissued Felt album because he now insists on there being an even number of songs on every album. Hi freak.”

Elephant 6 collective

An ever-expanding gathering of '60s pop and psychedelic revivalists who can’t see past the ‘B’ section of their record collections (Beach Boys, Beatles, Big Star) who have whimsical names such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power and Winnebago Candy Ears (just kidding – made that one up!). Good adjectives to drop are: over-articulated, ‘shroom-loving, Pet Sounds-listening and clever chops. Also important, this “collective” is overseen by defacto-alpha-E6er Rob Schneider of Apples in Stereo. If you feel confident with your blagging skills, say something along the lines of Belle & Sebastian take the E6 nebulous cunning to a new level. But if not, the below example will work just fine, scoring you extra points by name-checking GBV in the same line.

“E6ers record and produce with a four-track sincerity and enthusiasm that would satisfy even the most Bob Pollardly of Bob Pollards.”

The Go-Betweens

Formed in Brisbane (important blagger fact!) but later based in London, The Go-Betweens released six albums of loveliness between 1981 and '88. Like all the best dysfunctional marriages in rock, singer-songwriters Grant McLennan's clear pop songs and Robert Forster's more eclectic and arty offerings create the perfect balance of what most sensitive musos live for: velvety, yet jangly melodies featuring pure emotions dipped in bittersweet chocolate. Be warned though – do not approach the Go-between fan unless you are very self-assured. Go-Betweens fans play for keeps.

“Without the Go-Betweens, there would be no Pavement.”

The Shaggs

One of the first “family” bands (three sisters, with an occasional fourth) The Shaggs opened the can of worms that later spawned The Jacksons and The Osmonds. Formed in Fremont, New Hampshire in 1968, they performed at the town hall (every Saturday night), regional talent shows and the occasional nursing home. The sisters were managed by their father (yet another can of worms) and play an uneven yet endearing sort of pop with atonal free jazz overtones, featuring vaguely Christian/existential lyrics. Championed by Frank Zappa, The Shaggs took on a cult life all their own. Their album Philosophy of the World divides most critics. Some would rather eat their own spleens then hear it again, while others find it truly hilarious. Listen at your peril.

“That opening band were so incompetent they make The Shaggs sound like ELP.”

Dead Moon

After languishing in obscurity (we love obscurity) for a decade or so, Dead Moon have seen their name-dropping quotient shoot up with the CD reissues of their previous vinyl-only albums from the late 1980s and early 1990s. The important thing for you to remember is not only the band, but that you will only listen to their shit on vinyl. Keeping it real = instant street cred. Make sure to mention that they insisted that all of their vinyl be cut from the same lathe that the Kingsmen used for their immortal “Louie, Louie.” All of their true fans should know it already, ergo putting you on their footing instantly.

“The only reason I went to The White Stripes show was to see Dead Moon.”

High Rise

More underground than Merzbow (on uber-hip label P.S.F.) High Rise are a Japanese power trio version of amphetamine-fuelled freakouts Monster Magnet (who are the American version of Blue Cheer) crossed with a late 70s loose jazz/experimental sound (some people compare them to Cream). Important to note that the core of singer/bass player Asahito Nanjo and guitarist Munehiro Narita stay the same, but the drummers rotate.

“I was talking to Asahito who said that 80s KISS is just as relevant as 70s KISS.”

Pink Slipper Diablo

Formed in the early 60s – part of the Pacific Northwest surf-garage scene. This quartet, lead by Norman Lee Wilson, should have been the ones who made it big. Instead Wilson’s best friend’s band, The Sonics, stole not only the limelight, but also the main riff from PSD’s best song "Strychnine". As Wilson watched his former best friend’s band get bigger and bigger, opening for The Beach Boys and Lovin’ Spoonful, he decided to disband PSD and start his freshman year at Harvard. After school, he started The Lime Rickey’s, a power-pop/folkish trio who would go onto to strongly influence Dinosaur Jr (Lou Barlow specifically) after hearing their split 7” with synth-clash pioneers The Money on Secret Keeper records.

“PSD were so far ahead of the curve, it ran them over.”

Television Personalities

Fronted by eccentric Englishman and diagnosed schizophrenic Dan Treacy, the TVPS (the in-the-know acronym of choice) dropped mod-pop-punk-psych gems on an unsuspecting (and mostly uncaring) world through a lo-fi filter from 1979 to 1998, when Treacy was legally declared missing and has yet to resurface. Along the way, they influenced practically everyone apparently, from The Pastels to the Jesus and Mary Chain to the entire Creation Records roster. The strangest thing about the TVPS, though, is that they’ve been a hip name to drop for 20 odd years now, and show no sign of relinquishing their status.

“The Jam were lame pop-art poseurs compared to the Television Personalities.”

The Dream Syndicate

This one is fucking genius. The name can either refer to the Steve Wynn-led ‘80s guitar combo who were a big influence on artists as diverse as Kurt Cobain and Galaxie 500, or to the avant garde group featuring LaMonte Young and John Cale that predated the Velvet Underground. Just throw the name out there and see what happens—you’ll soon know what sort of a crowd you’re dealing with. You can score points by sneering at your least favorite scenester by saying that you’re talking about the other Dream Syndicate and marvelling at their musical ignorance. The beauty of this is that whichever one he/she actually means, you can claim the opposite. Nothing succeeds in blagging as much as pointing out the ignorance of other losers. But be careful—this tactic is pretty advanced and will test your blagging skills to the limit, as it can come around and easily bite back if a bona fide geekler calls you on it. Still, even the novice can fake it a little bit.

“What do you mean which Dream Syndicate am I talking about?” (See? You are an instant winner!)

By: Lisa Oliver and Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2003-12-19
Comments (5)

Today on Stylus
October 31st, 2007
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews