Nine Song Titles That Read Like Bad Babelfish Results


Richard D. James’s song titles are so full of cat-walking-on-keyboard gibberish (“Omgyjya-Switch7,” “INKEY$” “ΔMi−1 = −αΣn=1NDi[n][Σj∈C{i}Fji[n − 1] + Fexti[[n−1]]”) that it makes for sharp non sequiturs whenever there’s a hint he’s fucking with you, like “Cock/Ver 10.” Even more maddening is that a little research turns up meaning: “Lornaderek” is a portmanteau of his parents’ first names, which makes sense, since the track is James’ parents singing “Happy Birthday” into his answering machine. So it’s fun to surmise about the logic behind James’s other Scrabble triple-word scores. Like 1995 favorite, “Wet Tip Hen Ax” seems easy enough: if I had a “hen ax,” presumably for axing hens, it’s safe to assume the “tip” would be “wet” from their “blood.” Okay!

Eight more like Aphex Twin’s “Wet Tip Hen Ax”, below:

Fountains of Wayne, “California Sex Lawyer
The chorus is “CALIFORNIA SEX LAWYER/ OHHHHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAAH!” and it’s all pumped about this dream job that isn’t even a thing. This grotesquely unwarranted ball of swagger gets even more confusing: “IT’S NOT FAIR/ BUT BABY I DON’T CAAAAAARE.” “California sex lawyer”? Sure a few exist, but realistically, FoW might as well be singing, “TORONTO BREAD ANALYST/ OHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAH!”

R.E.M., “Circus Envy
The somewhat retrospectively misunderstood Monster has its deep moments, but the appeal of an R.E.M. grunge album presaged a legion of Gavin Rossdales–punk rage as garbled nonsense. Of course, it might’ve been funnier if the reigning leader of inarticulate rage at the time hadn’t just killed himself and cast a pall over everyone else’s real-or-fake angst. Still, tunes like “Circus Envy” (recorded in special extra-shitty-fi) lightened the tension with unserious glam posturing and “Here comes that awful feeling again” swerving straight into classic Michael Stipe haiku. “Put pepper in my coffee/ I forgot to bark on command.” Woof.

Weezer, “Dope Nose
Drug reference? Too easy. In 2002, Rivers Cuomo liked to flaunt being a jackass who could say things like “Cheese smells so good/On a burnt piece of lamb” over sky-budget Who riffing and still have a big-enough hit to annoy bloggers who really care about that sort of thing. Also in 2011.

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Archers of Loaf, “Quinn Beast
Archers of Loaf were on tour and a female acquaintance cut in line and took the last plate at Shoney’s Breakfast Bar–let’s assume her name was Quinn. So they blew the “incident” way out of proportion and wrote a really fearsome, epic rock song about “the mighty Quinn BEAST” who “always gets what she wants/ And she wants what she gets/ She wants more (MORE) more (MORE)/ She’s the first in line/ Every single time/ She wants more (MORE) more (MORE).” This is why I love Archers of Loaf: unlike Pavement, they make their inside gags translate outside their little circle, and they’re really funny. The word “beast” is also really funny when it’s applied to people for really uncalled for reasons, like taking the last plate.

They Might Be Giants, “Boat of Car
John Linnell and John Flansburgh were never again as un-self-consciously bizarre as they were on their first album, where the Elvis Costello-ish “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head” stated their purpose in a tacked-on basso lament: “Memo to myself/ Do the dumb things I gotta do/ Touch the puppet head.” They later became more smart-ass with the likes of “I Palindrome I” (“Some day mother will die and I’ll get the money/ She leans down and says my sentiments exactly/ You son of a bitch”) and “My Evil Twin” (“He’s even got a twin like me”). But nothing challenged the laws of English in such a compressed dada-nugget as 1986’s “Boat of Car.” Linnell declares, “I took my boat for a car,” while a Casio does the Charleston backwards. “Daddy sang bass,” interjects one of those disembodied voices. And everything right is wrong again.

Pill, “Trap Goin’ Ham
The great thing about someone like Ghostface is you can shut off your brain, lay back, and imagine that he’s he’s filling ravioli bags with meat and cheese to sell. Likewise, pretend you know nothing about crack rap (this isn’t a big stretch for me personally) and “Trap Goin’ Ham,” the opening salvo by minor Atlanta cause celebré Pill is great fun. “Trap goin’ ham! We got pies flying at us!” Pill’s not-entirely-inadvertent slang combos boil down the intensities of the ghetto to a big food fight.

Hole, “Drown Soda
Apparently one of Courtney Love’s most affecting songwriting hallmarks was early on: childish imagery–childish command of language even–as a vehicle for harrowing teenage impressionism. Early singles, “Retard Girl” and “Dicknail,” took back-of-the-bus taunts and juvenile sound recording to tear high school to pieces from the inside– you felt for the “retard girl” (written after Love was almost raped near Melrose Avenue). At the same time, you cheered on its dirty-shock title as an attention-grabbing ploy. The sliding PJ-Harvey-caterwaul of Hole’s “Drown Soda,” which never made its way onto an album, is one of the funnier balances of these dare-you games to take them seriously. “Oooh baby, let him break you/ And I think you’ll understand,” culminates in Love screaming “Watch me while I DROWNNNNNNNNN.” And the whole time you’re just envisioning this poor, tortured girl drowning in Sprite.

Phish, “Chalkdust Torture
I imagine someone tied up and someone else pounding erasers, and there’s choking. And I imagine that’s just what it feels like to be at a Phish concert.

At the Drive-In, “Rolodex Propaganda
No band ever was so in love with their own polysyllabicism like El Paso postpunks At the Drive-In, who have plenty of titles that read like MENSA Scrabble scoreboards (“Hulahoop Wounds,” “Metronome Arthritis”) and the occasional one-worder where you can just imagine the five of them scouring the dictionary and shouting out words people haven’t used as titles yet: “Lopsided”! “Cosmonaut”! But “Rolodex Propaganda”–off the really-deserved-to-be-on-more-decade-lists Relationship of Command–wins a special prize for its ATDI-song-within-an-ATDI-song chorus where none other than Iggy Pop stutters out “M-m-m-m-m-m-manuscript replicaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” in various goofy-cowboy voices. Meanwhile super-serious Cedric Bixler-Zavala chants, “Cut it! C-c-c-c-cut it!” as if any of this shit makes sense and he won’t stand for it. It doesn’t.


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