As kings of the annoying/pretentious band name, the members of !!! couldn’t be bothered to use the alphabet at all. No, these dance-punks wanted to make it tough to even say their name—that’s how exclusive their club was. Initially, they pushed the idea that you could pronounce three exclamation points as any noise repeated three times—“pow pow pow” or “bang bang bang”—but eventually “chk chk chk” seemed to win out. Still, tough to Google.
The upstate New York jammists in moe. didn’t originally use the ridiculously affected lower-case-and-period combination—they actually were just trying to differentiate themselves from an uppercase-Moe band. But the punctuation and lowercase stuck, which now makes people stop reading sentences right in the middle, then eventually figure out what the hell is going on.
3-4. the pAper chAse and tUnE-yArDs
The now-defunct Paper Chase wasn’t as consistent as some trickily spelled bands are: Sometimes it would use all caps, or all lower case. But it was this particular spelling—the pAper chAse—that proved the most confounding, especially to anyone using Microsoft Word. Word processors can’t stand misplaced capital letters. Speaking of frivolous capitalization, Merrill Garbus’ frequently excellent band, tUnE-yArDs, is all about it. Is there some code in those extra capital letters? Probably not, but it looks kinda cool. Oh, and those looking to buy her albums should seek out BiRd-BrAiNs and w h o k i l l, as opposed to Bird-Brains or Whokill.
It’s actually not possible given today’s typing technology to re-create the “correct” spelling of nü-metal titan KoRn. It can, however, be described using plain English: The “R” is capitalized, but rendered in a mirror image. Presumably that makes it scary and/or extra awesome to scrawl on high-school notebooks.
6. Hed PE
Speaking of bad nü-metal with difficult-to-render names: “G-punk” band Hed PE is sometimes known as (hed) Planet Earth and occasional even (hed) p.e., with the first “e” rendered upside down, a.k.a. the linguistic schwa sound. If this was all a ploy to distract from the band’s terrible music, it worked.
There exists a British band simply called A, which has survived long enough to release four albums, break up, and regroup. All of this without the aid of Google, apparently.
There’s at least a decent reason why this currently very popular band (“We Are Young,” “Some Nights”) stylized its name with no capital letters and a period at the end: It’d be a lot different if it was called Fun! or even FUN! or perhaps fun… This one is sort of ironically, detachedly having a good time. Still, like moe. before it, fun. has a way of stopping sentences dead in their tracks.
9. Against Me!
Early adopters of the exclamation point, the Florida punks in Against Me! also know how to stop a sentence cold. It’s never clear if the exclamation point should be rendered in casual conversation, but it’s probably a good idea not to be too loud about it in any case. (See also: Los Campesinos!, Wham!, and Attack Attack!)
10. You Say Party! We Say Die!
The Canadian dance-punks in You Say Party! We Say Die! had the good sense to remove both the exclamation points and the second sentence in their name eventually, but it took a tragedy to do it: Their drummer, Devon Clifford, collapsed onstage in 2010 from a brain hemorrhage and died shortly after.
11-14. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Go! Team, Panic! At The Disco, and Captured! By Robots
Perhaps even more annoying than exclamation points in the proper place: exclamation points right there in the middle. Canadian soundscapists Godspeed You! Black Emperor used to put the punctuation at the end, then inexplicably moved it into the middle, causing mild panic among those who had just gotten used to saying it the other way. Panic! At The Disco has lived with this exclamatory mid-handicap the whole time, as has the British collage/cheerleading act The Go! Team and robot band Captured! By Robots. Perhaps a package tour is in order.
15-16. The Academy Is… and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Ellipses—those three dots—generally indicate one of two things, either that something has been left out of a passage (this would presumably help a reader with context), or that a thought has trailed off. Neither of those uses really explains the chosen name of Fall Out Boy contemporaries The Academy Is… (The academy is what? Please tell us! Actually don’t, because who cares?) or …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, which is presumably just aided by an ellipsis in an effort to sound super badass. (It does help a little.)
17-19. Man Or Astro-man?, Therapy?, and Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Is it a sign of low self-confidence when a band uses a question mark at the end of its name, like a timid inquiry about whether it actually exists? These three bands may know for sure. Man Or Astro-man? is the surf-inspired instrumental band that took the ’90s by very light storm by wearing spacesuits and generally being awesome. Therapy? is an aggressive Irish trio that found very brief success in the early ’90s alongside bands like Helmet. Does It Offend You, Yeah? melds dance rhythms with heavier guitars, which shouldn’t really offend you, yeah. Whether to pronounce these names as if asking a question is ultimately up to the end user, but it should be noted that doing so sounds really stupid.
It should come as no surprise that a witch-house/chillwave outfit has a deliberately difficult name, but check this out: This one is pronounced “Oh.” Try asking for that at the record store, and perhaps some Abbott and Costello shenanigans will ensue.
On the opposite end of the unpronounceable spectrum is Nguzunguzu, which is pronounced just like it’s spelled: en-goo-zoo-en-goo-zoo. Will the electronic L.A. duo shoot itself in the foot with the name, or will it stand out in the crowd? Only time will tell.
22. Sunn O)))
Though frequently—and understandably—called “sunno,” this louder-than-hell doom-metal duo is actually just called “sun.” The “O” and subsequent lines are swiped from the logo for Sunn amplifiers, which was trying to express some sonic movement. In spite of the unspoken symbols, though, people still just say “sunno,” though they can’t be heard over the droning din anyway.
It’s pronounced “dive,” and this buzzing indie-shoegaze band (an offshoot of Beach Fossils) actually used to just be called Dive. But instead of changing the pronunciation, it just changed the spelling. Is that less confusing, especially with all the capitals? And won’t Roman-numeral enthusiasts be tempted to call the band “502”?
24. Was (Not Was)
In a perfect world, Was (Not Was) just wouldn’t have a name at all—the parenthetical would simply cancel out the first bit. But alas, English is a tricky beast, and the Was brothers (not really brothers, but that’s another Inventory) scored a big ol’ hit with the incredibly dated earworm “Walk The Dinosaur.”
25. Prince’s symbol thing
No list of annoying artist names would be complete without Prince, who decided to confound the world (and his record label in particular) by changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol that was sometimes just called “the glyph.” In his own words: “The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote.” And yes, he changed it back when it became clear that word-of-mouth was impossible without a word to speak. (And “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” was a horrible substitute.)