Throughout the years, I’ve run across some albums that were just so brilliantly titled that I had to buy them. There were times when the music turned out to be disappointing, of course, but a snazzy title will grab my attention every single time.
So, what are the best titles of all time? Well, that’s a highly subjective thing and my criteria on judging titles is pretty basic. First of all, it’s got to be a hoot. Rock and roll bands have generally taken themselves too seriously and have generally tried to come across with heavy, philosophical album titles (or, at least, ones that they thought were cool). It’s refreshing to run across a band that slaps a title on an album that causes all who see it to come to one conclusion – these guys have a sense of humor. I’m a sucker for a sense of humor.
Here’s what I mean. My brother and I once formed a fictional band called Hate Magnet. We figured we’d jump right into the fray by releasing a couple of overblown concept albums to kick off our careers. The first one was to be called “I, Pimp,” whereas the second was to be called “The Pimp and I” so as to offer a different perspective. Funny, huh? Well, we thought so.
Second, in order for an album to make my “top titles” list, I must have actually heard of it. That means we’re going to be looking at albums that came out primarily in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ready? Here’s the list.
1. Elvis Hitler, Disgraceland (1988). Elvis Hitler never exactly hit the big time, but the thrashy-punky Detroit rockers have to be given credit for a gem of an album title. As if pairing Elvis and Adolph Hitler weren’t enough, the band had to just bring the point home by mangling the name of Elvis Preley’s house.
2. The Residents, The Third Reich ‘N Roll (1976). The title is a hoot and the cover is even better (Dick Clark dressed in a German military uniform while holding a carrot?) There are only two songs on this album – both meander on for about 20 minutes as the Residents simply mangle classic hit after classic hit in the time-honored medley format. It’s an odd listen, but what else would one expect from The Residents?
3. The Angry Samoans, The 90s Suck & So Do You (1999). “Metal” Mike Saunders, a proud Little Rock, Ark., boy, had his finger on the pulse of an entire decade with this particular title. The 90s did suck, indeed, and we’d be wise to never forget it. By the way, this old Arkansas boy can’t help but love the illustration of Saunders on the cover – a Razorback shirt, a guitar boldly proclaiming that the SEC Rules and the “Hog Man” scrawl are all awesome in my book. The music isn’t bad, either, although the once hardcore Angry Samoans sound more like a pop-punk band that’s been influenced by Screeching Weasel than one of the most prolific members of the West Coast hardcore punk movement in the 1980s.
4. The Meatmen, We’re the Meatmen… And You Suck!! (1983). Here’s a title that pegs the music on the album perfectly. You’ve got a loud, sloppy guitar, thudding drums, a bass that breaks through the murk every now and again and Tesco Vee offending everyone in earshot. This album is mostly live and it’s obvious that Vee both loves to taunt the audience and doesn’t take things too seriously. It’s all pretty much what you’d expect from a band that was responsible for the suck trilogy – Crippled Children Such, French People Suck and Camel Jockeys Suck. The music isn’t that great, but the packaging is pure gold.
5. Screeching Weasel, How to Make Enemies and Irritate People (1994). Here’s the perfect album title from Ben Weasel and his gang of snot-nosed, Ramones-loving punks. The fun doesn’t stop with the album title – with songs like “I Hate Your Guts on Sunday” and “Nobody Likes You,” you pretty well know that to expect with this one.
6. The New Duncan Imperials, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas (1997). What a title! What an album! The lads – Pigtail Dick, Skipper Zwakinov and Mr. Goodtime Dammit – were at the top of their game here. By the way, if you haven’t heard the all-over-the-map stylings of the New Duncan Imperials, you are missing out on a band that was one of the must unique acts going the 1990s. Guitarist Pigtail Dick professed a great love of Foghat and that explains everything.
7. The Dead Milkmen, Beelzebubba (1988). The Dead Milkmen ran out of ideas after a time, but the band was at the top of its game here. Listening to these punks mock one thing after another was great fun. Sadly, the party was over after this one – it was all downhill from here.