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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pop Etc: Could the Morning Benders Have Chosen a Worse New Name?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 3:14 PM


Our sympathies to the members of the Morning Benders, who recently chose -- but were basically forced -- to change their band name. In a note posted to their old website over the weekend, the members explained that since "bender" is a widely used derogatory slang term for "homosexual" in the U.K. and parts of Europe, they felt they could no longer go on using it. Controversy over the band name was distracting the press and potential fans from the music, and of course the Berkeley-born trio didn't want to offend the gay community.

All of which is fine -- unfortunate but understandable. What's not fine, though is the name that singer Chris Chu and Co. chose to replace the Morning Benders: "Pop Etc."

"We wanted a name that was short and simple. Secondly, we wanted a name that was descriptive of the sound," Chu told Billboard. "It's our band name, but it's also the kind of music we play: pop, etcetera."

Now, there's a long history of brilliantly glib band names in music. The Pop Group. The The. Television. !!!. But Pop Etc. does not come across like a band being cleverly economical with its moniker. It sounds like the kind of half-assed blogspeak that regrettably passes for cultural criticism in 2012.

As a musical label it is almost perfectly uninformative. One would have to try very hard to come up with a more vague description, since "Pop, etcetera" could sound like anything from the Shangri-Las to the Sex Pistols to Shakira to, hell, Sleigh Bells. The symmetry of those two three-letter words indicates that some thought went into this idea, but their meaning is not even cleverly broad. In a world where "pop" alone can indicate anything from '60s guitar rock to Ibiza thump with vocals, appending it with "etc" adds absolutely no useful or interesting content, and only the slightest whiff of style. "Music, Etc.," would have been far funnier.

And since when should a band's name be a label for its music? Chu says his band is "committed to change," that it will "never settle" -- well, it just did. Whatever creative energies lie in the hearts of these three former UC Berkeley students, their musical imaginations end, apparently, at "pop, etcetera." Rest assured there will be no 25-minute ambient electronic suites or radio-unfriendly robo-funk assaults in the future of the former Morning Benders. But if you're curious what their idea of "pop, etc.," sounds like, there is a free EP of new songs to accompany the name change.

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