Sometimes, song titles are short, succinct subject lines. There are many, many bands with tracks called "Love," "Rock and Roll," "Take Me Away," "Come Together," etc. But then there are those songs whose titles are original and distinct. Here's a review of some of our favorites.
Stars of the Lid
Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie's ambient drone project is some seriously diffused music: emotional, melancholic, infused with classical elements. It's the music I play to fall asleep every night, which sounds like less of an endorsement and more of a slam. (Trust me, it's not.) One would expect that for music of this type -- which comes off serious and moody -- that the band would have a certain reverence for their work and the genre of their songs. But if we can glean anything from their song titles, which heavily reference David Lynch films and soccer stars (Brian McBride shares a name with a retired striker for the Chicago Fire) and make other weird allusions, SOTL isn't afraid to take the piss out of themselves. Frontrunners for best song titles ever include "That finger on your temple is the barrel of my ray gun," and "December Hunting for Vegetarian Fuckface."
The famously verbose Stevens' abandoned 50-state project may have yielded only two albums, but the song titles alone almost make up for the missing states. Stevens' M.O. is clearly one of saturation and excess, and this spills over into nearly paragraph-long song titles. Check out the title for the second track on Illinois: "The Black Hawk War, or How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!'" Pithy reductions of history notwithstanding, these titles are amazing for their humor, detail and perspective.
In an interview they did for the Scion AV Garage Fest, the beloved pop-punk crew explains their approach to naming songs. "We have tons of songs already written and a bunch of stupid, stupid song titles, and we just, like, marry them together." Some of these sit on the Rooftops' song-name data bank (aka a pizza box). One unwritten song is particularly interesting: "Snake Fist II." Winners from their debut LP, Carrot Atlas, include grammatically funky declarations of desire ("Charley Want a Mario Chalmers," "Zach Want Glove" and "Drew Want Dino") and possible inside jokes like "It Has Nothing to Do With Canada." Plus, there's one of my fav 'Tops tracks: "I'm a Fish, Shirtless in a Fisheye Lens." What does it mean when a band displays such irreverence in their song-naming process? For the Rooftops, not much. We'd love to have something with a little more meaning, but what matters is the music, and these scrappy titles fit perfectly with RV's scrappy music.
The Flaming Lips
Long before they streamlined and became this generation's premiere psychedelic godheads, the Flaming Lips were just plain fucking weird, with even weirder song titles. I still can't tell you what the title "Pilot Can at the Queer of God" is referring to, even though it constantly intrigues me. Other great intriguing titles from the Flaming Lips' early work include "Oh, My Pregnant Head (Labia in the Sunlight)," "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles," and ""March of the Rotten Vegetables." But my favorite Flaming Lips song title might be "The Train Runs Over the Camel But Is Derailed by the Gnat," simply because it has a koanlike quality, however surreal and absurd it is.
Guided By Voices
As the granddaddy of strange, spliced song titles, Robert Pollard has left behind some true stunners. His work as the primary songwriter for GBV yields amazing titles (and truly amazing songs). Of course, there are more simple titles in the GBV oeuvre, but you never forget songs named "Tractor Rape Chain," "Gold Star for Robot Boy," "Pimple Zoo," or "Man Called Aerodynamics."