Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cut It Out

It takes a lot to flummox Superman. But in 1967, a smallish, mischievous looking bloke from the fifth dimension got the better of Superman just by introducing himself. His name was Mxyzptlk. Bereft of vowels, our superhero found the task of pronunciation, a head-scratcher. He went: “Mr. Mixie, what?” He just couldn’t figure out that it was Mister MixyZipitlik.

Many rock fans experienced a similar moment of weirdness in the early seventies when they first encountered an album from ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’, the first band to use no vowels in their name. The presence of the quasi-vowel ‘y’ made it a little easier. Still the name evoked a lot of curiosity. The band had to issue a clarification that Lynyrd Skynyrd was a mock tribute to their teacher Leonard Skinner, who with his strict policy against long hair, drove their lead guitarist to drop out of school.

The boy band NSYNC took the ‘no vowel movement’ one step further and capitalised their letters in 1995, thereby triggering off an avalanche of ugliness. Musicians with little talent decided that the best way to stand out was to create a disemvoweled name.

The result is, now we’re stuck with hundreds of band names that look straight out of the rack of a scrabble player burdened with consonants. Some samplers would give you an idea of how lousy things have got. There’s this Virginia-based Hip Hop band called ‘RDGLDGRN’. If you could spot the three colours, wait till you try and decode ‘LVTHN’, a black metal band paying an ode to ‘leviathan’, the sea monster referenced in the Old Testament. Then there’s NRCSSST, the Lithuanian metal band with a self-obsession so huge, they’ve made it their name.

The one that’s more puzzling than an abstract cubist painting is ‘SHXCXCHCXSH’. Nobody knows how to address this Swedish band that specialises in putting out techno tracks with titles like ‘RRRRGRRGRRR’, ‘STRGTHS’, ‘WHTLGHT’, ‘RSRRCTN’ and believe it or not, ‘SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs’.

Even brands have tried to ride the wave. In 2001, Reebok announced that it was starting a new line called ‘Rbk’. British cycling champion Mark Cavendish launched ‘CVNDSH’ in 2013 with the cheeky punch line ‘Fst as Fck’! In my humble view, flushing out the ‘A, E, I, O, U’ from a name is as crappy as vowel movements.