Bitch, Please plays Southland Ballroom Thursday, Nov. 29, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5–$8.
If Charles F. Moreland III had decided to become a partner in a law firm, his given name would have surely sufficed; it’s ready-made for a business card. But when the Atlanta-based producer opted to pursue a career as a musician, he knew he needed a handle that sounded a bit less pretentious and cumbersome. So he chose Bitch, Please.
For those curious about the genesis of Moreland’s stage name, his official biography doesn’t provide any clues. But the words he uses to describe his music are certainly telling. In the aforementioned bio, Moreland is declaimed as a “ghetto glam bastard child [who] wanted to combine his love for Top 40 R&B/Hip Hop […] with his passion of creating bass driven beats and remixes.” Sure, to some extent, Bitch, Please does evoke “[s]tunner shades, champagne flowing, fur coats, and surprise remixes and vocal samples.” Moreland, who performs at Raleigh’s Southland Ballroom next week, says that’s the image he wants his music to convey.
But most likely, Moreland just wanted to grab people’s attention, and he reckoned that a crass, noxious sobriquet like Bitch, Please could turn the trick.
Punk bands have long been masters of this gambit, appealing to the baser instincts of potential fans and critics with names like The Sex Pistols or The Slits, Fucked Up or Coke Bust; sometimes they made headier allusions to unsavory topics, as with Joy Division’s evocation of Nazi brothels. These choices are meant to be both confrontational and exclusive; if you didn’t get or couldn’t get past the reference in order to hear the music, then too badyou weren’t invited, anyway.
Confrontational or potentially offensive band names also offered acts a primitive viral publicity; you wanted to tell your friends about this new band badass enough to have that name. NWA, for instance, garnered a load of free publicity from folks trying to walk around the “N” word; the same holds for metal groups, ranging from the gore-conjuring Slayer to the taste-baiting Marilyn Manson to the old-fashioned juvenile dick joke of Limp Bizkit.
Making music under a hard-to-handle name sets the stage for bands that trade in upsetting the establishment. Punk, rap and metal are all aggressive modes of musical expression, so it would only follow that they share a fondness for non-musical modes of aggression, too. If you have something important to say, and especially if no one is listening, the best way to turn attention your way is to be a little loud and obnoxiousin every way imaginable and on every front possible. That’s one lesson of Russian feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot. Jail time be damned, they dared to criticize President Vladimir Putin. Since most American bands haven’t spoken that kind of truth to power in many decades, the story of musicians being jailed for merely singing protest songs would have crossed the Atlantic eventually, no matter the name. But the fact that the musicians being jailed called themselves Pussy Riot sped the story’s dissemination, setting an instant hook for anyone interested in art’s ability to challenge authority.
No matter what a performer calls themselvesbe it Hootie & The Blowfish or Millions of Dead Cops or BrokeNCYDE or Caroliner Rainbow Customary Relaxation of the Shale or even an unpronounceable glyphthe choice says something about the music being represented under that name.
Even the M.O. of wiseasses like grindcore pranksters Anal Cunt dovetailed perfectly with that extremely evocative name; former Matador Records act Fuck made genteel, hushed indie rock that was the intentional antithesis of their calling card, thereby setting the stage for their music’s angst.
While Bitch, Please might vaguely share a confrontational sensibilityalbeit a cussword-loving PG-13 onewith their forebears, their musical aims are completely different. In fact, Bitch, Please might be the perfect name for Moreland’s work, if only because it could be the reaction a good amount of listeners will have to his “surprise remixes and vocal samples.” His music streams together a relentless onslaught of dance-music trends, all running headlong into each other like drunks acquainting their face with the floor of a club’s bathroom. As his bio so eloquently puts it, Moreland’s goal with Bitch, Please is to have people “rage it proper.”
Still, the only thing more tiring than listening to this stuff is referencing it by its name, a nom de guerre as lazy and noncommittal about its casual bro-baiting sexism as the group’s music is about its particular way of block-rocking. (It’s worth noting that the phrase “Bitch, please!” is a playful admonition in many communities, including queer crowds; the rest of Moreland’s aesthetic and vocabulary, though, don’t really bear out that connection.) Not every band needs to have political motivations or affect social change or even throw self-obsessed fits about various injustices. But if you’re going to provoke a reaction, do it with some actual conviction. If you’re going to risk offense, own it.
Again, musical groups that choose to get in people’s faces with their names are often doing it for more than just the attention. While Bitch, Please joins in a long line of artists hoping to make a lasting impression with a provocative tag, both the music and the name reek of the sort of indecisive signals that come from compromise. And the promise of any band willing to offend you on first glance should be that compromise just isn’t something they do.