5 Billion and Counting: Music For Stars to Die By

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

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At first pass, 5 Billion and Counting is the sort of band I would plant my stompy boots firmly apart on the ground and urinate upon with one fist in the air while shouting, "Noooooooo Brooooooo!" And yeah, their approach does come across like much of the douche-rock that I remember as a blur of wrestling entrance themes from the early '00s.

If you are willing to commit to them, though, you run across some really ingenious lyrics and themes. It's political, granted, which is another strike against the band, but there is also a honesty to the band. Not to mention a tendency to pull off some interesting vocal approaches in tunes like "1%" and "Roll Call." You remember how Saliva was terrible, but "Ladies and Gentlemen" still kicked ass no matter what angle you looked at it? That's 5B&C, but much, much better.

In fact, something like "Police Sate Nation" can be called downright clever. It's like Jello Biafra was fronting Rage Against the Machine or something, and even has vaguely operatic shades in terms of how it tells a story. If you like it loud, you'll like 5B&C. I did.

But that name...


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Music's Five Dumbest Pseudonyms

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
2 Chainz
Have you ever wanted to change your name? I'm going to guess that almost all of us have at some point wanted to go by some cooler moniker, unless your given name was something like "Max Power," a name that sounds good in your ear. I'm going to also guess that whatever pseudonym you came up with as a kid ultimately ended up sounding pretty dumb later on in life.

That's what makes these five famous pseudonyms musicians have gone by all the more baffling. Why on earth would a grown adult call themselves something so dumb? To be fair, most didn't stick with them, but they'll never really live them down in my eyes.

For the purposes of convenience, I mostly decided to ignore black metal here. That list would go on for days.


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Letters to Voltron: None of That Vehicle Crap

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It's a well-known fact that most band names are gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're looking hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

Every man has his Questing Beast, his White Whale, his Sephiroth if you will. For me and my quest to spread wide the names of Houston bands and lick my way to the center, it has always been Letters to Voltron. I've been sending these cats emails for years trying to learn the truth behind so awesome a name and nada. Today, though, we get dangerous.

If you haven't heard Letters to Voltron, then you are missing out. It's like... how can I put this? Imagine if every second-rate, coked-up joker you knew from your club days was also a brilliant metal musician. That's Letters to Voltron, all cackling hyped-up snide remarks and pseudo-philosophy delivered with a kind of garage-thrash that feels like a punch to the head. How can you not love a band that calls a song "All Your Dreams Will Come True (When You're Dead)?" They're like the Billy Nayer Show on crank. I love it.

That name, though...

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FLCON FCKER: Because Obscenity Should Be Symmetrical

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

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You know what I love the best about Houston lately? We have all these really excellent electronica bands that are just byte-fucking our heads at every turn. Bang Bangz, BLSHS, and now another all-caps, vowel-impaired act in FLCON FCKER (pronounced "falcon fucker"). I haven't gotten a chance to see the man we'll for the rest of the article refer to Two F live yet, which is a shame because he's got a rockin'-ass bird costume to go with his rockin'-ass music.

It's more pulse-driven than the siren ambient works of our more female-centric groups, and doesn't appear to use vocals in any major capacity that I can tell. Nonetheless it manages to tell a story amidst the melodic modem noises. Imagine if instead of trees and animals the world was made of machinery. Two F's music would be the pagan nature sounds of that metal world. It's like a William Gibson picnic soundtrack. I'm digging it.

But that name...


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Cosmic Bug Loaf: The Death of William Shatner Via Spiders

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here on Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

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At my day job I have a coworker who makes fun of me because I like what he calls "primitive minimalist" music. By that he means that doesn't see the appeal in a band like the Legendary Pink Dots which is mostly droning weirdness that can't decide on jazz or pop so does both while making exactly no sense at all.

Cosmic Bug Loaf reminds me of that... at least if LPD had Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar. It's a bluesy psychedelic explosion that shows off some tremendous skill on the strings but really gets going by invading your mind like a fever dream. Take a song like "Springwell," which is equal parts hard blues jam and caterwauling call to the elder gods. You fall through the haze they produce, going mad all the way. I bet someone gets murdered to this band one day. It just feels like that's going to happen.

But that name...


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Woozyhelmet Takes Two Years to Answer an Email About Their Name

It a well-known fact that most band names are gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

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Two years ago, when I started punching band names in the vowels until they coughed up their lunch origins, I was immediately smitten with a band called Woozyhelmet from right here in Houston. See, it's a throwaway line from the 1992 movie Toys starring Robin Williams, which in addition to being one of my favorite movies of all time is also the most underrated Christmas movie ever.

In it, Williams' runs a toy factory that is being taken over by his uncle in hopes of turning into a miniature war-machine producer. In the name of innocence and whimsy, Williams fights back in a battle between good and evil that is heartwarming and truly extraordinary. Along the way, he invents a rollercoaster simulator that his robotic sister calls a Woozy Helmet.

I was so excited to find another fan of the film that I immediately fired off an email for this column to Jay Blazek Crossley. Then silence. Nothing. I have ignored everything the band has done since then out of a misplaced nerd-rage. It's petty, I know, but Toys fans are so hard to find I felt like I'd been left at the altar or something.

Then yesterday...


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We Are Wombat: Try Pooping In Cubes

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're doing our best to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

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My absolute favorite kind of music is stuff that isn't in any way goth, but sounds like it should be. Especially if it leans towards the country or blues end of the spectrum. Part of it is because I really think the next evolution of goth with be a more stripped down, acoustic thing, but it's more because I listened to Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" on an endless loop as a child and that kind of brain damage doesn't heal no matter how much you drink.

Fight cell death with cell death. I've always said that.

So let's look at my new best friends, We Are Wombat. Someone get the True Blood people on the phone and call their mothers slatterns until they agree to put "Delzo Spells" in Season 6.

It's the kind of tune you just know someone will eventually overdose while listening to, all delta blues guitar lines and talk of falling down the rabbit hole. They say every man can ascend to the arms of the Lord, but I postulate that you can tell the irrevocably damned by the tone of a tune. We Are Wombat is going straight to hell in a blaze of dark glory.

But that name...

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Artificial Earth Machine: The Mexican NASA In Us All

It's a well-known fact that most band names are gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

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Look tape! Ask your parents, kids.
There are many kinds of electronic music. There's your run-of-the-mill pop dance stuff, your more gothic and commanding industrial sermons, chip tunes that build a little nerdhouse in our souls, and then there's stuff like Artificial Earth Machine. It's the sort of electronica you hear as the soundtrack to big science-fiction movie ideas with little science fiction movie budgets. It's too pumping to be ambient, but too ethereal to be commanding. It's probably the android version of that weird half-sleep you get after your spouse leaves for work just early enough to let you go back to sleep for an hour.

Take "Abstraktion" as a real good example. It sounds like Martha Graham's "Lamentation" as performed by a Cyberman. You're just able to ignore this weird beepy bullshit until it steadily builds and ever more impressive audio figure in your head that feels like being on a rollercoaster after too much cold medicine. That's what makes Artificial Earth Machine impressive, their ability to craft emotions out of machines and make you feel them in the proper order.

But that name...

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Pissed Grave: Let's Pee On American Hitler

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Houston Press we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

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I live for a band like Dallas' Pissed Grave, honestly. Oh, not because they're especially brilliant or move me musically or anything. I just love music that is chaotic and unredeemable. I like the sound of notes and lyrics scourging each other with razors in some half-remembered ritual of painful salvation. It's like a little microcosm of dystopia for the ears.

Take my favorite track from their demo earlier this year, "Raining Shit." It's throbbing, incomprehensible, loud, and full of a hateful energy that both alludes to punk and metal but is so passionately self-destructive that it actively repulses those genres even as it draws strength from them.

Or maybe you'd like something like "Junky Rat," which makes me wonder what songs Cole Porter would've turned out in the final stages of a terminal meth addiction. What a total screaming rejection of form or boundary, yet delivered with the circular rage of an atomic bomb. I dig it.

But that name...

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Ninjas From Texas: San Antonio Metal Crew Sells "Sex, Drugs and Mopeds"

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're doing out best to make sense of the oddest monikers.

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Photos courtesy of Ninjas From Texas
Ninjas From Texas is a metal/hardcore act out of San Antonio. It's the sort of music that makes me sad there are no good Van Damme movies anymore. I can totally see him as an aging underground metal musician who deals out ass-beatings and justice from under a mask all set to Ninjas From Texas' "Bitch We Keep it Real." It's angry, it's juvenile, it smacks of being written in the aftermath of a bitter session of masturbation, but goddammit it has punch.

There's even a kind of brutal poetry in something like "Sex, Drugs, and Mopeds." I mean, sure, the growling and the screaming and the call for immediate gratification is still all over the place, but Neil Munoz's vocals honestly have a Salinger quality to them. There's a beautiful, empty futility to the message that he and the band accomplish well under the soulpunch.

That name, though...


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