jump, jive, and whales

twitter's popular "fail whale" error message.

twitter's "fail whale" error message makes me seriously consider joining the site. © Yiying Lu

Batten down your hatches, landlubbers, for I’m about to tell ye a tale.

Whales are my favorite animals, a love I can trace back to an obsession with the movie Free Willy* and annual childhood trips to MarineLand. I still have a stuffed orca, Whaley, from one of those visits, who may or may not still sit on my bed.

(*Yes, I know that killer whales are more closely related to dolphins. But considering they’re the BAMFs of the ocean, I think of them as one of the family. Plus their genus name, Orcinus, means “from hell.” Awesome.)

I’m a sucker for these sea-dwelling creatures in any material form they may take. Calendars, posters, jewelry, anatomically incorrect Beanie Babies, even one of those horrendous spray-painted t-shirts from the mall — I have owned and treasured them all.

Today my collection is considerably pared down, but my eyes and ears still perk up at the slightest mention of anything whale-related. That’s why I was delighted to come across Heart on a Stick‘s A Goddamned Guide to All These Goddamned Whale Bands. (Part Two is here.) Whales and music served up with a side of snark? Yes please!

The list is exhaustive (“but not comprehensive,” warns the author. “I left out Namu the Disco Whale, just to be mean.”), featuring dozens of whale-monikered artists. Who knew that Whale is the new black? (Or Wolf/Bear/Hands/Tapes/Cassettes/Crystal, as the case may be.)

I thoroughly recommend reading through the whole Guide, which is sprinkled with wit (my favorite!), fun facts, and a few pretty good bands. WALL•E and Fudgie the Whale also get shout-outs.

The best offerings from a musical standpoint are The Devil Whale and Freelance Whales:

Freelance Whales, whose vocalist reminds me of The Format and synthesizers of Hellogoodbye, is also blessed with one of my favorite names of the bunch. As a freelance writer, I feel for these guys; I can just imagine some poor, frustrated porpoise trying to scrape together a living as a whale.* This is what happens when I’m left alone with my thoughts.

(*Actually, “freelance whale” is a pretty fitting description for the orca.)

Other contenders for best name include:

  •  British Whale: While the name is a combination straight out of my own personal version of heaven, the usually-entertaining Justin Hawkins (of The Darkness fame) disappoints here with only two tracks, both abysmal.
  • Prints of Whales: Another fantastic juxtaposition, this time adding puns to the whales and Britishness. Their MySpace page offers the cheeky tagline “Putting the ‘O’ back into Cuntry,” plus the most giggle-inducing friends list I’ve seen in quite some time. (Thank you, Scrotum Clamp and Gob$au$age.) If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t like their music, I’d be in love. As it is, I’m still slightly smitten.
  • Simien the Whale: Named for a misheard Rusted Root lyric, though I question the band’s ignorance. This song is a classic.

I’ll stop here for fear of ruining the rest of the list’s lustre. Suffice it to say, it’s a worthy venture if you’re up for a whale of a time, mateys.

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