Back at the end of January, when the Oxford, England math rock band, This Town Needs Guns released their long-awaited sophomore follow-up full-length to their superb 2009 album, Animals, I had two immediate thoughts: 1. I can’t wait to get this album, and; 2. What a shitty time to be in a band named This Town Needs Guns.
True, the band comes from a country that counted 58 gun deaths in 2011 (as opposed to 8,775 in the US’s most recent figuring, though Britain’s population is 62 million as opposed to our 314 million or so) and cops don’t even carry firearms in most cases. But in this digital age, when something someone Tweets in Djibouti can end up on the morning news in New York, it’s fair enough to say that a band today may find it useful to take more of a world view on certain things than a band formed in the early aughts, when This Town Needs Guns was formed.
It seems that the band agrees, announcing recently that they would be known only by the acronym TTNG. As they wrote on their site:
“Over the years, many of you have asked where the band name comes from. As a band originating in Oxford, UK, ‘This Town Needs Guns’ was simply a name chosen by a group of friends wanting to make music together. At the time, this name was not considered particularly offensive and indeed was an ironic statement given the setting of such a historic and cultural city as Oxford.
Context plays a big part in the way a band name such as ‘This Town Needs Guns’ may be perceived. In the UK, guns are not present. Ordinarily, our police force do not even carry guns. Within this context, an idea such as a town needing guns seems too absurd to be taken seriously.
However, eight years on, things have changed. With our music now finding new cultures, the irony of the name is no longer implicit. Also, in light of the controversy over gun ownership in the US as well as tragic shootings there and elsewhere in the world, we want to distance ourselves from a band name which we are now uncomfortable with.We hope this change of name doesn’t disappoint anyone. It is the music that is important, not the name. As Shakespeare’s Juliet said ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'”
Ending a press release with a Shakespeare quote—super-British.
While we’d opine that moving away from the original name makes sense from a sensitivity standpoint and in an effort to take into account the fact that the band and its ideas now extend well beyond their own immediate culture, we would have liked to see them adopt a totally new moniker if they were going to go that route. Now they’ll just have to constantly answer the question ‘What does TTNG stand for?” bringing them back to their original problem with the name and what’ll likely result in a tired explanation on their part. Plus it’s fun to name bands. Who doesn’t like the Band Name Game?
We’d also argue a more acute shift would be especially timely given that the band’s original singer, Stuart Smith, left the band to start a family before recording this most recent album. Following that, the band’s bassist, Jaime Cooper, stepped away as well, leaving the band to find a new singer—Henry Tremain—who ended up taking on bass-playing duties as well, though he evidently does so with a bass/baritone guitar hybrid to retain some of the band’s original dual-guitar melodies. The result—a three-piece consisting of Tremain (left, above), guitarist Tim Collis (right, above + the only remaining original member), and brother, Chris Collis on drums (middle).
I’ve always found it kind of odd when a band loses its frontman and soldiers on under the same brand, as it were. But one could easily maintain that Tim’s guitar-playing is the true defining sound of the band. Intricately melodic and inarguably evolved from the early 90s post-hardcore/indie sound (think American Football, et al), Collis’ guitar ranges from classically beautiful forlorn to staccato-rhythmicly aggressive and it drives the rest of the elements of the band’s songs.
The new album—the Mayan-end/beginning-of-the-world-themed 188.8.131.52.0—is an understandably different animal (pun, sadly, kind of intended), but one that shares the same roots of the band’s earlier work and pushes it further into new, exploratory directions.
Scroll down + listen to the superbly titled “Cat Fantastic”—a rhythmically complex but hauntingly engaging song seemingly about the pitfalls of dudes in bands trying to date posh women—to see what we mean.
Photos by Tom Nero.