one nice thing about music fans is that they keep the pretensions of the artists they love in check. just ask the beatles, metallica or led zeppelin. they tried to make albums without proper titles, but fans named them anyway: "the white album," "the black album" and, for led zeppelin, it was a toss-up between "led zeppelin iv" and "zoso."
now that we are in the internet age, this process is even more thorough. on tuesday, last year's shortlist prize winner, sigur ros, released its first major-label american album. the band, which has a reputation for wanting to do everything its own artsy way, decided to leave untitled not only the cd but also all the songs. but fans attempting to play the record on their computer using real player earlier this week received a strange surprise: names appeared for all of the songs. real player has a service in which fans type in the song titles on their cd's, which are then sent to a central database so that anyone listening to music can see the track order. they can see that the first track is titled "vaka," after the drummer's son; that the fifth is "alafoss," after the band's studio; and that the last is "the pop song," because it is probably sigur ros's idea of making populist music. the band's music doesn't follow traditional song structures: it's fantastically cinematic and spell-binding, best thought of as one step beyond radiohead's "kid a."
but where did these song titles come from? several representatives of the band were contacted, and eventually it became clear that fans took the names from the band's set lists. the names, it seems, are just the band's working titles, so that they know what to play when performing live. now, it seems, the names are the working titles for record buyers also. a spokesman for mca said that real player had removed these song titles from its database. things could be worse. fans, seizing on the large cutout cover image that looks like parentheses, refer to the album in writing as "( )," and a few refer to it orally as "the black cheetos album." fortunately for the band, only the symbol is currently appearing on web sites.