Friday, December 11, 2009

"Night train to Crazy Town" or "A town by any other name would be as crazy"

Every so often I’ll get an unexpected e-mail from my buddy Max. E-mails from Max are cause for celebration, as they generally include links to some fascinatingly useless material. Video clips involving horror movies and professional wrestlers are a recurring theme. Max has graced me with wonders ranging from Mean Gene Okerlund interviewing Andy Warhol to selected scenes from Lindsay Lohan’s opus I Know Who Killed Me. Seriously, if you’re not receiving e-mails from my buddy Max, you owe it to yourself to get on his mailing list.

This past summer, however, Max sent me something much more troubling than his usual fare. In a message entitled “An unfortunate retrospective on human stupidity,” he linked to the music video for “Butterfly,” a song performed by a California band called Crazy Town. This video is quite possibly most horrific thing ever committed to film, and I’m including war atrocities, “Two Girls One Cup” and that footage of Shawn Livingston’s leg snapping in half. Max aptly describes it as “a smorgasbord of late nineties crap, complete with bad piercings, surfer skater Bermuda bullshit, digitally enhanced raver head backgrounds, and just about the worst fusion of rock and rhyming in the history of crappy rap/rock fusions.”

Max’s e-mail made me remember the era when “Butterfly” was an unavoidable radio staple. Now, top 40 radio hasn’t been a factor in my life since I quit my college job at the pom-pom factory. Whenever I happen to see a list of the week’s top hits, I’m hard pressed to find even one that I recognize. But back in ’01, that “Come my lady, come-come my lady” refrain was ubiquitous enough to worm its way into my consciousness. I hadn’t, however, known who exactly was singing it. Learning that “Butterfly” was performed by a band named “Crazy Town” opened the door to a whole new dimension of horror. I believe I was previously aware that a band with that name existed, but I’d never stopped to reflect on the disturbing implications of that fact.

Think about it: At some point in the not-too-distant past, a group of people got together with the intention of naming a band. I can’t say for sure whether this collective involved the band members themselves or just whatever corporate marketing team was tasked with branding this new musical commodity. Regardless, this group of people presumably cycled through a wide array of potential handles, with numerous suggestions being proffered and shot down. And somehow, when all was said and done, this group of people decided that “Crazy Town” was the way to go.

Look, I sympathize with these folks. As a copywriter, I am often tasked with naming things, and it is easily my least favorite part of the job. Coming up with a single word or phrase that captures the essence of a product or concept and isn’t already being used by someone else is a difficult endeavor. It can’t be simple to think up a totally original moniker for a new group, especially when you’re competing in the teeming marketplace of post-Chili Peppers Cali rock-hop acts. But even taking all of that into consideration, there is no conceivable way that “Crazy Town” was the least objectionable option on the table. If Crazy Town was the best name available, what got rejected? “Loonyville”? “Insannesburg”? “Psycho City*”?

I mean, dear lord – Crazy Town. It sounds like a playground insult or the setting for a Nicktoon. Are we to presume that the band members are residents of Crazy Town? Are they the sole residents, or is Crazy Town a city on the grow? Does Crazy Town have an infrastructure and a political hierarchy? Is there, for instance, a Mayor of Crazy Town? Wouldn’t “Mayors of Crazy Town” be an infinitely better band name?

Given the quality of the music, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by the awfulness of the name. This is, after all, a band whose front man voluntarily went by the name “Shifty Shellshock.” But man, even by the standards of their audience and era, Crazy Town is ridiculous. At least the other fratty douche bands of the early Oughts chose flat-out infuriating names like Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and Hoobastank (OK, that last one is almost as bad). Crazy Town is just plain silly. Had I been an upside-down visor enthusiast in 2001, there is no way I would have ever shown my soul patch at any performance by a band with a name so thoroughly un-rocking.

Maybe I’m getting too worked up about this, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that sacred institutions like cheesy rock bands abide by some sensible standards of nomenclature. Today’s rockers could take a cue from my own high school band, Inflatable Grandpa. Now there’s a name with all the dignity and grace that befits a true progenitor of the musical arts.

*Actually, that one’s already taken. About 10 years ago some friends and I went to a karaoke night at a now-defunct dive bar in Northeast Minneapolis. One of the regulars was a short, scruffy little guy who specialized in singing ‘80s hair band tunes. For some reason, he took a liking to us and told us in great detail about his dream of assembling a metal band called Psycho City, in honor of his favorite Great White song. My point: even a sketchy drunk who devotes his evenings to belting out “Something to Believe In” at a grimy bar on Hennepin Avenue can come up with a marginally better, or at least more alliterative, name than Crazy Town.

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