Band Names & Other Poems
By Peter Davis
In the mid-1980s, venerable punk zine MAXIMUMROCKNROLL plastered the cover of an issue with all the names of the dozens and dozens of bands that had been featured in their stainy, Xeroxish pages. It was both an aesthetic homage to (John) Peel Session record covers, and a boast on the depth of the hardcore punk scene and the zine’s reach over it. The act also seemed a tiny-fonted testament to the End Times of band names. Surely that must have accounted for all the good ones! Surely there couldn’t be any more…at least in the punk realm…
Of course it wasn’t. And there were.
Still, in the following decades, the casual popular music fan would be forgiven for thinking that, at some point, all the good, hell, maybe all the band names period had finally been taken. There must be some finite combination of the nouns, pronouns, adverbs, phrases and biographical references that can be hung over a collection of guitars, drums and keyboards. We’ve gone from the banal (The Band, The The) to the exotic (God Speed You! Black Emperor, Einstűzende Neubauten); from the cultish (Adam West) to the infamously historical (Franz Ferdinand); from the holy (Creed) to the profane (Fucked Up). You could be forgiven for thinking that, with well-over a half-century of popular music in the history books, and with technology increasing the ability of musical acts to blossom, anything good and sensical must have been taken. The English language must be exhausted trying to keep up!
Nope. Each morning, a trip to Pitchfork or any other music blog/site/reference guide brings forth samplings of fresh broth from the seemingly infinite well.
In Band Names & Other Poems, Peter Davis proves both this vibrancy of popular culture as a brand generator and underlines the medium of language as its essential food and fuel. And offers up a whole bunch of new band names for keeners in basements and garages across the continent.
The rhythm of the collection is like a long pop song itself. Each ‘verse’ is the series of pages with columns of potential band names that can be chanted off like a sprawling, Whitmanesque catalogue of the pop cosmos. These are occasionally interrupted by one or two standard poems for which Davis plucks titles from the lists. These bits of verse melodically function like a repeating chorus and/or middle eight throughout the meta structure of the book.
Band Names & Other Poems is a fun and funky illustration of how language works – how words collide in our discourse like essential particles that form new structures out of, sometimes landing atop, and occasionally replacing, the old. Davis illustrates that power as he tosses names out like hybrid seeds that quickly flower into full poems, each a different flavour of the possibility that a vibrant, living language can offer.
There are absurdist riffs in the anti-ballad, ‘The Diet of Jesse James’: “O, Jesse James ate cash, mostly, but he/also ate other forms of money, like/checks and bank statements”. There are languid, dream-like strokes of observations on ‘The Dainty Ninjas’ that “aren’t powerful/ but.. are merciful, like/ a god that no religion has/discovered yet”. There is also a sharp violence in ‘Careful of the Panther’, a stab of verse about a beast that “has/secrets he keeps from himself, erupting/in bloody-gore orgies, involving claws, /teeth and the muscles of the jaw”.
Davis’ ode to language as a deep well for experience, and entertainment, is unique in form but also an impressive, and fully immersive, experience.
Plunge in here.
P.S. If you are in a band, and in a bind for inspiration for something to paint (old school) on the front of your drum kit, Davis will offer you more than a little inspiration.
Our personal favourites include: Bomb Dogs, The Drunk Best Man and Oliver Stoner.