“If You Love Somebody, Set Them On Fire”: 26-plus masters of clever/weird/cheeky song titles

From The A.V. Club:

1. Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices
The remarkably prolific Robert Pollard has a seemingly inexhaustible ability to produce song after song, so it’s a good thing he has a gift for colorful titles to attach to them. While Pollard’s hit-to-miss ratio is famously variable, his gift for crafting songs that at least sound intriguing has never flagged. Beyond classic GBV albums like Propeller, Alien Lanes, and Bee Thousand, whose standout tracks include “Gold Star For Robot Boy” and “Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy,” there’s a series of side-projects and solo albums littered with memorable, possibly random, combinations of words like “Customer’s Throat,” “Motion Sickness Ghosts,” and “Trick Of The Telekinetic Newlyweds.” And that’s saying nothing of Pollard’s gift for naming albums and EPs, which is almost self-defeating. Can any collection called Standard Gargoyle Decisions live up to its title?

2. Anal Cunt
Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt—known as A.C. to more family-friendly publications—may be the only songwriter in history better known for the titles of his songs than his actual music. That’s partly because Anal Cunt’s tunes are mostly ruthless blasts of noise, and partly because its titles are deliberately provocative and sometimes horribly offensive. From the simply bizarre (“Breastfeeding Jim J. Bullock’s Toenail Collection”) to the very not-okay (“You Got Date Raped,” “Kill Women”) to the fantastically self-referential (“Song Titles Are Fucking Stupid,” “Having To Make Up Song Titles Sucks”) to the simply sublime (“Living Colour Is My Favorite Black Metal Band”), Putnam did it all. And then he died last year, not terribly long after releasing a promotional photo of himself, naked, simultaneously receiving a blowjob and injecting heroin.

3. Dillinger Four
Minneapolis punk band Dillinger Four specializes in intense, melodic, and deeply sarcastic punk rock. That last characteristic is especially reflected in the group’s song titles, which frequently have little to do with the actual content of the songs, often seeming like goofy titles a group of friends brainstormed for their imaginary band. But they work on their own, too: “A Floater Left With Pleasure In The Executive Washroom,” “Portrait Of The Artist As A Fucking Asshole,” “Get Your Study Hall Out Of My Recess,” “Contemplate This On The Tree Of Woe,” “He’s A Shithead (Yeah, Yeah),” “Define ‘Learning Disorder,’” “New Punk Fashions For The Spring Formal,” and many others.

4. Pink Floyd
After Pink Floyd’s founding frontman—the Mad Hatter of psychedelia, Syd Barrett—departed in 1968, the group found itself minus its main source of demented wit. Still, it was bassist Roger Waters who had come up with the weirdest, wordiest song titles of the band’s Barrett era, including “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk” and “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.” After replacing Barrett with David Gilmour, Pink Floyd tried to keep the strangeness coming, first with “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and then with inscrutable titles like “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast,” “Mind Your Throats Please,” and “Wot’s… Uh The Deal?,” all of which belied the group’s growing moodiness and atmosphere. But the height of Pink Floyd’s logorrhea appears on 1969’s appropriately bloated Ummagumma: “Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict.”

5. Carcass
The metal subgenre of grindcore is often fixated on the morbid and mortifying, a noxious aesthetic that Carcass helped pioneer with its 1988 classic, Reek Of Putrefaction. With songs that buzz through human tissue like a coroner’s electric saw, the album sports appetizing titles such as “Regurgitation Of Giblets,” “Microwaved Uterogestation,” and “Feast On Dismembered Carnage.” Carcass topped itself, both musically and title-wise, with 1989’s Symphonies Of Sickness, which hosts a gory litany of causes of death—“Excoriating Abdominal Emanation,” “Embryonic Necropsy And Devourment,” and “Crepitating Bowel Erosion” being just a few choice selections from an abundant menu.

5. Future Of The Left/Mclusky
Neither of Andrew Falkous’ bands—the now-defunct Mclusky and the still-raging Future Of The Left—is particularly well known, but that’s not for lack of trying in the song-naming department. If songs called “The World Loves Us And Is Our Bitch” (from Mclusky’s Do Dallas) and “Robocop 4: Fuck Off Robocop,” sound appealing, well, they are. It’s cheeky, angry fun, with cheeky, angry titles to match.

6. The Locust
Prankish and costumed, arty grindcore band The Locust has long specialized in music that’s impenetrably abrasive. The same goes for its song titles. Almost every track the band has ever recorded is a perfect, sparkling gem of cut-up, skull-fucking surrealism—not to mention a sidelong parody of ridiculous grindcore titles as a whole. A small sampling of The Locust’s greatest hits include “Stucco Obelisks Labeled As Trees,” “Siphoning Projectiles During Selective Amnesia,” “Spitting In The Faces Of Fools As A Source Of Nutrition,” “Earwax Halo Manufactured For The Champion In All Of Us,” “Captain Gaydar It’s Time To Wind Your Clock Again,” “Gluing Carpet To Your Genitals Does Not Make You A Cantaloupe,” and the Easter-time classic “Get Off The Cross, The Wood Is Needed.” Seeing as how most of The Locust’s songs clock in under 60 seconds, it takes almost as long to read their titles as it does to listen to them.

7. The Dead Milkmen
Starting out as a joke on a series of homemade comedy tapes, The Dead Milkmen morphed into a real band by the mid-’80s. But they never forgot their roots in snotty, juvenile humor. The band’s 1985 debut, Big Lizard In My Backyard, set the tone for an irreverent career with tracks like “Right Wing Pigeons” and “Takin’ Retards To The Zoo.” Soon, many mini-masterpieces of punky, nerdy humor had entered the group’s setlist: “Vince Lombardi Service Center,” “(Theme From) Blood Orgy Of The Atomic Fern,” “Sri Lanka Sex Hotel,” “My Many Smells,” “Everybody’s Got Nice Stuff But Me,” “If You Love Somebody, Set Them On Fire,” “Methodist Coloring Book,” and the anti-Baby Boomer anthem, “The Thing That Only Eats Hippies.”

8. Atom And His Package
Adam Goren doesn’t need his status as a high-school science teacher to prove he’s a geek. Better known as the one-man band Atom And His Package (his “Package” being his bandmate, a sequencer), the bespectacled rocker spent the late ’90s and early ’00s performing a breathlessly high-pitched selection of dorky synth-punk songs. Among the many winners: “Anarchy Means I Litter,” “If You Own The Washington Redskins, You’re A Cock,” “Dear Atom, You Do Not Want Children, Love, Atom,” “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Lib,” and “Possession (Not The One By Danzig).” But Goren’s affably satirical egg-headedness is best summed up in this title: “(Lord, It’s Hard To Be Happy When You’re Not) Using The Metric System.”

9. The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips have long been known for their expansive music. The group’s song titles, though, are just as sprawling. Even on the band’s corrosively psychedelic debut, 1986’s Hear It Is, “Jesus Shootin’ Heroin” hinted at the brain-fried oddness to come. From there, frontman Wayne Coyne let his freak flag fly: Among his many playfully bizarre song titles are “One Million Billionth Of A Millisecond On A Sunday Morning,” “Talkin’ ’Bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants To Live Forever),” “Oh, My Pregnant Head (Labia In The Sunlight),” and “Psychiatric Explorations Of The Fetus With Needles.” As The Lips’ music has mellowed over the years, though, so have Coyne’s titles. Tracks like 1988’s “Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon (Fuck Led Zeppelin)” have given way to gentler, dreamier ramblings like “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion (The Inner Life As Blazing Shield Of Defiance And Optimism As Celestial Spear Of Action)” and “The Wizard Turns On… The Giant Silver Flashlight And Puts On His Werewolf Moccasins.”

10. The Fall
Most of Mark E. Smith’s song titles (and lyrics, for that matter) sound like something the Fall frontman blurted out in a drunken stupor and that some bandmate then copied down incorrectly. From “No Xmas For John Quays” on The Fall’s 1979 debut album Live At The Witch Trials to later songs like “Who Makes The Nazis?,” “Gut Of The Quantifier,” “Mollusc In Tyrol,” “The Birmingham School Of Business School,” “Paranoia Man In Cheap Shit Room,” and “How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man,’” Smith has long lived up to his reputation as an eccentric crank.

11. Minutemen
As young fans of punk, funk, jazz, and prog, Minutemen’s principal songwriters Mike Watt and D. Boon learned how a good title can lend form and weight to the improvisatory. Early Minutemen song titles were short and punchy, but as the trio expanded its sound, Watt and Boon started righteously sloganeering, with titles like “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs,” “Dreams Are Free, Motherfucker!,” “If Reagan Played Disco,” “Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing,” “The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts,” “There Ain’t Shit On TV Tonight,” and the sublime statement-of-purpose “Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Truth?”

12. Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy liked to slip pop-culture references into its song titles, such as “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (But I’m Gonna Give It My Best Shot),” “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today,” and “Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part To Save The Scene And Stop Going To Shows),” “Coffee’s For Closers,” and “Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner.” But the band also just liked long titles: “I’ve Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song),” “I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me,” and “Champagne For My Real Friends, Real Pain For My Sham Friends.”

13. Captain Beefheart
Singer, songwriter, painter, and all-around absurdist maniac Don Van Vliet applied his God-given naming skills most deftly to his own moniker, the one and only Captain Beefheart. But there are plenty of other strokes of Dadaist genius scattered in the track listings of his convention-shredding albums. Consider these gems from 1969’s landmark Trout Mask Replica: “When Big Joan Sets Up,” “My Human Gets Me Blues,” “Hair Pie: Bake 1,” and “Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish.” Rarely has nonsense been so profound.

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