where did the instrumental post-rock/math-rock tradition of goofy song names originate

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this is something i associate heavily with mogwai and don caballero, but it seems to have been pretty common across bands that played instrumental math rock and/or post rock starting in the '90s and up into the present day. calling your songs things like "moses? i amn't" or "fire back about your new baby's sex". i get that it comes from the difficulty of titling songs that don't have lyrics and aren't clearly "about" a topic, but i'm wondering if it can be traced back to specific band.

na (NA), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:31 (two weeks ago) link

Erik Satie

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:33 (two weeks ago) link

Even though I loved them, 'A Minor Forest' were the worst at this for my money -

"...But the Pants Stay On" (Weston) - (6:42)
"Bill's Mom Likes to Fuck" (Albini) - (10:23)
"Ed Is 50" (Weston) - (4:20)
"So Jesus Was at the Last Supper" (Albini) - (14:00)
"Jacking Off George Lucas" (Weston) - (7:07)
"Speed for Gavin" (Albini) - (3:59)
"Perform the Critical Straw Transfer" (Weston) - (7:48)
"Dainty Jack and His Amazing Technicolor Cloth Jacket" (Albini) - (4:08)
"Beef Rigger" (Weston) - (6:16)
"The Lonliest Enuretic" (Albini) - (8:42)

Just awful, Don Cab a close second.

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:37 (two weeks ago) link

The first Penguin Cafe Orchestra album (1976) had a track called "The sound of someone you love who's going away and it doesn't matter."

jaymc, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:37 (two weeks ago) link

isn't it a prog rock thing? like the quiet sun album from 1975 had a song called 'Mummy Was An Asteroid, Daddy Was A Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil'

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:38 (two weeks ago) link

I think all instrumental music has this tendency.

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:38 (two weeks ago) link

Before all that there was Zappa, Beefheart, Soft Machine et al. And jazz, of course.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:39 (two weeks ago) link

I would argue that there's a certain tonality to the math/post-rock/metalcore band's track titles that don't quite match up with ppl like Zappa et al.

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:43 (two weeks ago) link

Just listing a couple pre-math rock goofy titles off the top of my head:

Jefferson Airplane - The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil, A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly
Camper Van Beethoven - Mao Reminisces About His Days in Southern China
Black Flag - I Won't Stick Any of You Unless and Until I Can Stick All of You
Minutemen - Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth?
Nation of Ulysses - A Kid Who Tells On Another Kid Is A Dead Kid

☮ (peace, man), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:47 (two weeks ago) link

not fully instrumental but the track titles on the storm & stress records are exemplary:

We Write Threnodies. We Write With Explosions
Today Is Totally Crashing And Stunned In Bright Lights
Dance 'Til Record Skips Like Passengers Shift On Take Off
Micah Gaugh Sings All Is All
Guitar Cabinet Stack Way High Is Freedom Or Gravity Gives Us Rhythm
Piles Of Blinkers Slip For New Years
Orange Cone Made No Noise
The Sky's The Ground, The Bombs Are Plants, And We're The Sun, Love
An Address That Was To Skip Ahead Of The Gallop Of Its Own Sperm And Eggs And Wait For Itself In The Future: Letter To 2096
Meet Me In The Space They Stare At Leaving Their Seat During A Show
It Takes A Million Years To Become Diamonds So Let's Just Burn Like Coal Until The Sky's Black
The 1st. Our Lady Of Burning Thorns
O, When My Lady Comes
The 2nd. Perpetuate The Beautiful
And Third And Youngest, Unnamed
Forever, Like Anti-Oxidants (Listen To The Sound Our Cells Make)

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:48 (two weeks ago) link

Even though I loved them, 'A Minor Forest' were the worst at this for my money

LOL, literally opened this thread to post a A Minor Forest tracklisting.

I'm scared my but won't fit in it. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:48 (two weeks ago) link

LOL x 2, and then I was going to go trawl through Storm & Stress song titles as a backup. I see that y'all have this under control.

I'm scared my but won't fit in it. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:49 (two weeks ago) link

not fully instrumental but the track titles on the storm & stress records are exemplary:

They're all terrible.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:50 (two weeks ago) link

very terrible

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:50 (two weeks ago) link

The songs will all have stupid working titles, then when it comes time to send the masters off they have to think up proper ones, can't, and stick with the goofy crap.

Cosmic/synth artists have the right idea - a random selection of Neuronium title gives us:
Flying Over Kai-Tak (Part One And Part Two) 25:29
Privilege 4:12
Les Tours Du Silence / The Towers Of Silence 17:15

Prelude
Chromium Echoes
The Neutron Age

When The Goblins Invade Madrid 3:35 (actually going a bit math rock with this one)
Digitron 3:55
Priorite Absolue 6:43
Europe Is Europe 5:44
Sundown At Tanah Lot 17:30

Cornelius Fondue (Matt #2), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:54 (two weeks ago) link

Some of my favorites are from this album by the Uniform, which I have never actually heard but read a review one day 20 years ago and they stuck with me.

https://www.discogs.com/The-Uniform-33-Revolutions-Some-Other-Minor-Skirmishes/master/1068716

My favorite math-rock song title of all time though is from Hella: We Was Just Boys, Living In A Dead Ass German Shepard.

☮ (peace, man), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:55 (two weeks ago) link

There are two strata, in my mind anyway.

The goofy, tour van in-joke observational, vaguely frat-style - "please tokio, please THIS IS TOKIO" or "Look at That Car, It's Full of Balloons."

The portentous, doomy Godspeed/ASMZ style - "Lonely as the Sound of Lying on the Ground of an Airplane Going Down" or "Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord Is Dead"

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:56 (two weeks ago) link

Also not entirely instrumental but hoo boy @ Gastr Del Sol song titles. And bonus points to The Sea and Cake for naming themselves after an even-worse misheard variant of an already not-great Gastr song title.

I'm scared my but won't fit in it. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:57 (two weeks ago) link

None of these bands appear to have good or interesting song titles, which is where they differ from the earlier artists mentioned as possible forerunners.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:58 (two weeks ago) link

Hella bucks the trend by steering hard in the direction of terrible song title conventions but then somehow twisting them into something great.

I'm scared my but won't fit in it. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 15:59 (two weeks ago) link

A lot of these titles read like lyrics from a Saccharine Trust song

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 16:00 (two weeks ago) link

First world problems I know, but naming individual pieces of instrumental is actually a real hassle, there's only so many well-worn routes you can take.

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 16:01 (two weeks ago) link

*instrumental music

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 16:01 (two weeks ago) link

Probably why so many classical composers just number 'em

Cornelius Fondue (Matt #2), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 16:03 (two weeks ago) link

Then there's always the Ruins route of making up your own language

Cornelius Fondue (Matt #2), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 16:04 (two weeks ago) link

The L Train Is a Swell Train and I Don't Want to Hear You Indies Complain

jaymc, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 16:06 (two weeks ago) link

Poll for worst -

"Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares"

vs

"Let's Face It Pal, You Didn't Need That Eye Surgery"

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 16:07 (two weeks ago) link

Best Don Caballero Song Title (note: SONG TITLE ONL

na (NA), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 17:27 (two weeks ago) link

Before all that there was Zappa, Beefheart, Soft Machine et al.

Ha yeah the first example that sprang to mind of a band who were really bad for this was Hatfield and the North.

Gavin, Leeds, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:01 (two weeks ago) link

The specific tone of Don Cab titles sounds like snippets of overheard conversations at Pittsburgh bars and houseparties to me.

Pink Floyd's Ummagumma song titles should be noted. Careful with that Axe, Eugene seems very pro-Don Cab in particular, with the implication of menace.

This is probably a feature of instrumental music because of the practical need for vivid ways to distiguish between all your ropey jams - it was also a feature of 90s surf bands like Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and Man or Astroman.

file of unknown origin (bendy), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:20 (two weeks ago) link

geezer lake, 'freshly spilt innards reaped from the gut of a critic'

mookieproof, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:23 (two weeks ago) link

could argue that it goes all the way back to dada e,g. ‘the bride stripped bare by her batchelors, even’ could’ve been a truman’s water song

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:34 (two weeks ago) link

For a similar strain of ill-advised song titlesmithery, see also: These extremely metal song titles: which is the most metal?

I'm scared my but won't fit in it. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:43 (two weeks ago) link

I told you already, Erik Satie.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:46 (two weeks ago) link

(xp)

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:47 (two weeks ago) link

indeed!

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:47 (two weeks ago) link

"Bride Stripped Bare" eventually mutated into a Bonzos song

Joe Kulak 😎 (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:48 (two weeks ago) link

The best Bonzos song tbrr

Joe Kulak 😎 (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:49 (two weeks ago) link

name of a brian ferry album too!

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:51 (two weeks ago) link

oops, bryan

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:52 (two weeks ago) link

approximately when did this trend crosspollinate with emo

american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:52 (two weeks ago) link

Don't know Brian Bryan's stuff tbh

Joe Kulak 😎 (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:53 (two weeks ago) link

Bryan Emo?

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:54 (two weeks ago) link

for a recent example of this on a math-emo album with singing: https://tinyengines.bandcamp.com/album/uniola

american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:55 (two weeks ago) link

I feel like in Emo it's a slightly different thing, a lot of the titles I think are about overdetermined specifity, trying to nail down an emotional mood but also slightly ironically undercut themselves, not goofs as such?

Joe Kulak 😎 (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:57 (two weeks ago) link

1. Ride Or Die, Remember?
2. Well, Kansas Ain't What It Used To Be.
3. You're Lucky You Didn't Lose Your Arm
4. I Even Got This Scar To Match
5. Next Time, Send A Limo
6. We Are Groot.
7. Ice? Yeah, You Could Chisel Some Off Your Heart, If You Could Find It.
8. Ok, Ok, I'll Turn Down The Music
9. My Superman Seat-Grab Barrel Roll? I'm Still Working On It.
10. I Was Raised With A Different Kind Of Loyalty, You Know What I Mean. I Vote No. (Remember The Second You Go Through That Door, Everything Changes. Our Old Life Is Done.)
11. That Was The Flame Thrower. Use The Rockets.

american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:57 (two weeks ago) link

Wow OK that Look Mexico album. Still there's tons of self-aware angst/bravura in there tho

Joe Kulak 😎 (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 19:59 (two weeks ago) link

Anyway does this come via Connor Oberst at some point?

Joe Kulak 😎 (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:00 (two weeks ago) link

Aside from the song titles I already knew, people could be totally making this shit up on the fly itt and I'd be none the wiser.

I'm scared my but won't fit in it. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:01 (two weeks ago) link

...is the title of a Tortoise Japanese bonus track.

I'm scared my but won't fit in it. (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:02 (two weeks ago) link

There was a touch of this on the first Telefon Tel Aviv album, maybe because they were really into the Chicago post-rock scene

What's the Use of Feet If You Haven't Got Legs?
Your Face Reminds Me of When I Was Old
John Thomas on the Inside Is Nothing but Foam

change display name (Jordan), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:06 (two weeks ago) link

i guess you're right noodle, the look mexico titles are a little less outrageous and a little more self-conscious than "An Address That Was To Skip Ahead Of The Gallop Of Its Own Sperm And Eggs And Wait For Itself In The Future: Letter To 2096"

american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:07 (two weeks ago) link

i always took it as a song that is meant to convey a very specific emotion or social instance. it's what i do in my own music. a title like 'alright boys let's go to lunch' has a very specific meaning and is about something that most anyone who has lived for longer than five years can relate to. but naming it just 'giving up' or 'i gave up' is boring, despite that it may send the message more clearly.

or maybe it's all just an attempt at attention-grabbing bs.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:07 (two weeks ago) link

It's shite is what it is.

Michael Oliver of Penge Wins £5 (Tom D.), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:11 (two weeks ago) link

Back in highschool, it's year we would write a school play, and the students would write a bunch of songs for that, and the script would say things like 'lovesong' or 'fight song' or 'I am evil song' and most people would just name the songs that. And second year, me and my friends wrote the 'party song', and while the chorus was about sex, the bridge just went 'this is the paaaarty song!'. So when they wrote the program notes for the play, they asked us 'so is this called 'party song'?', and I said 'no, it's called 'The Green Volkswagen''. And that's why I had no friends in high school.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:15 (two weeks ago) link

and yet, if you had just been like, "ya, 'party song'" someone would inevitably have sarcastically remarked, "wow, what an original title!"

you did a good thing, fred.

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:25 (two weeks ago) link

The earliest emo example I can think of is that ridiculously long Cap'n Jazz album title.

Gavin, Leeds, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:27 (two weeks ago) link

You guys get to write your own school plays over there? We have to license ours from Disney®.

☮ (peace, man), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:30 (two weeks ago) link

Always dug The Fucking Champs track titles -- "Andres Segovia Interests Me," "These Glyphs Are Dusty," "Hats Off to Music," etc.

jeanie bueller energy (morrisp), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:37 (two weeks ago) link

I went to a music school. I think most other Danish schools just do Grease as well. I volunteered for script duty as well two years, first time we decided on my idea to adapt Emir Kosturica's 'Underground'. It was a pretty incoherent script, none of us bothered to watch the film. It was a pretty pretentious school.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:41 (two weeks ago) link

i feel like so many posts in this thread are like the equivalent of "why are computer files put in things called 'folders' - where does this come from?"

sarahell, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:47 (two weeks ago) link

These bands' set lists must take up multiple sheets on multiple monitors

Cornelius Fondue (Matt #2), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 20:55 (two weeks ago) link

XP - to Tom D, it's funny because the ridiculous instrumental math-metal band I was in nearly 20 years ago had an album called 'Arm Yourself With Clairvoyance', taken from a quote by Satie. And yeah we did have some stupid song titles too, natch.

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 21:14 (two weeks ago) link

approximately when did this trend crosspollinate with emo

― american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, November 6, 2019 7:52 PM (fifty-four minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

Was literally going to post this exact thing! Many of these are uncomfortably close to Fall Out Boy song titles.

soaring skrrrtpeggios (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 21:23 (two weeks ago) link

1. Dick Cheney Bleeding to Death on the Streets of Detroit
2. Paul Wolfowitz Boiled Alive in His Own Urine
3. William Kristol Raped in Prison
4. A Menstruating Condolezza Rice Dropped in the Amazon River, Eaten by Pirahna in 60 Seconds
5. Ari Fleischer Split Right Down in the Middle
6. Colin Powell Uncle Tom
7. Michael Powell Choking to Death on the Shattered Glass of My TV Screen
8. Donald Rumsfeld Buried Up to His Neck in Dogshit With Lawnmower on Top
9. Richard Perle Torn Apart by Jackals
10. Fuck John Cage
11. William Rehnquist Torn Apart by Six-Foot Bull Sharks
12. Bill Frist Kept Alive in a Persistent Vegetative State and Broadcast 24 Hours a Day on His Own Cable Network, Part 1
13. Bill Frist Kept Alive in a Persistent Vegetative State and Broadcast 24 Hours a Day on His Own Cable Network, Part 2
14. Clarence Thomas on the Wrong End of a Gay Porno
15. Bill O'Reilly's Face Sanded Off, Pureed, Injected Into an Enema Bag and Administered to a Willing Rick Santorum
16. John Ashcroft Flattened Under the Weight of a 5,200 Pound Replica of the Ten Commandments
17. Rush Limbaugh Sodomized by a 30-Pound Cuban Cigar
18. Trent Lott Asking for Directions in Brooklyn (aka Fuckin' Cracker)
19. Pat Robertson Plagued by Locusts
20. Tom DeLay Shoved in a Roach Motel, Poisoned, and Eaten From the Inside Out by Tarantulas
21. Jack Abramoff Scalped
22. Judith Miller Cut in Two by an Improvised Explosive Device
23. Michael Brown in the Superdome on September 4, 2005
24. Tony Blair Trampled by French Poodles
25. Jerry Falwell Meets the Children of the Corn
26. Anthony Scalia has a Hunting Accident in the Middle of the Wilderness, Gets Savaged by Wolves
27. Peggy Noonan Forcefed the Rotting Corpse of Ronald Reagan
28. Karl Rove Forced to Roam the Earth Forever as One of the Living Dead Feeding on Raw Sewage
29. Scott McLellan Wrapped in a Barbed Wire and Thrown Into a Press Room of Broken Glass, Part 1
30. Scott McLellan Wrapped in a Barbed Wire and Thrown Into a Press Room of Broken Glass, Part 2
31. Alberto Gonzales Wearing a Black Hooded Mask, Standing on a Crate With Electric Wires Taped to His Outstretched Hands
32. Paul Bremer at the End of Lynndie England's Leash
33. Brit Hume Scattered, Smothered, Tarred and Feathered
34. George W. Bush Go Straight to Fucking Hell
35. Silence Is Golden

Mr. Snrub, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 21:32 (two weeks ago) link

"Fuck John Cage" seems to be a thematic outlier?

jeanie bueller energy (morrisp), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 21:40 (two weeks ago) link

has anyone ever used an iphone's predictive text feature to churn out song titles?

horsegrenades, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 22:52 (two weeks ago) link

these remind me of the spaceship names in the culture novels

gbx, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 22:57 (two weeks ago) link

Best Use of Parantheses (In a Song Title)

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 6 November 2019 23:14 (two weeks ago) link

Nation of Ulysses - A Kid Who Tells On Another Kid Is A Dead Kid

this is a quote from the film "Over the Edge" FYI

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 23:21 (two weeks ago) link

or are we not distinguishing between things that are direct references/quotes of other works (I see "The Bride Stripped Bare" was also referenced upthread)? Cuz quotes/references don't seem very random to me.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 6 November 2019 23:22 (two weeks ago) link

From Japan’s post-rock-tuned reunion album (which contains more similarly titled instrumentals):

https://youtu.be/BKoTJ56ij4c

Max Florian, Thursday, 7 November 2019 10:31 (one week ago) link

If we are talking origins, Soft Machine Volume Two from 1969 has

"Hibou, Anemone and Bear"
"Thank You Pierrot Lunaire"
"Have You Ever Bean Green?"
"Fire Engine Passing with Bells Clanging"
"Orange Skin Food"
"10:30 Returns to the Bedroom"

(the best titles, "As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still" and "Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening" don't count as they are not instrumentals)

Think the root of this stuff was perhaps in psychedelia, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's 1968 LP "Volume 3: A Child's Guide to Good and Evil" has

"Eighteen Is Over the Hill"
"Our Drummer Always Plays in the Nude"
"A Child of a Few Hours Is Burning to Death"
"Anniversary of World War III"

(although I don't think these are instrumentals)

Think there are probably some goofy jazz titles from the early 60s, but really not an expert on those.

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Thursday, 7 November 2019 10:45 (one week ago) link

those WCPAEB songs aren't instrumentals e.g. "A Child of a Few Hours Is Burning to Death" is an anti-war song about napalm being dropped on civilians, albeit a somewhat surreal one ('we should have called suzy and bobby - they love to watch fires!')

Wee Bloabby (NickB), Thursday, 7 November 2019 10:58 (one week ago) link


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