There have been plenty of musical stunts over the years, from posting billboards with a hotline leading to a song preview to artists building monuments of themselves, but one tactic musicians keep running back to is releasing secret albums and tracks under quirky pseudonyms.
Plenty of iconic musicians have done this in the past, including Green Day, Fucked Up, Parquet Courts, Interpol’s Paul Banks, The Clash, Freddie Mercury, Coldplay, and more.
Check out our list of some of the best secret albums and tracks that artists released using a different name.
The Network (A.K.A. Green Day) – “Money Money 2020”
The time period between the release of 2000’s Warning and 2004’s American Idiot was the source of a lot of mystery in the Green Day world. In 2003, a strangely familiar new wave group called The Network released an album called Money Money 2020 through Green Day’s Adeline Records, which many critics and fans speculated to be a Green Day LP in disguise. Band member Mike Dirnt is the only person in the group who admitted to also being a member of The Network.
Various Artists (A.K.A. Fucked Up) – Raise Your Voice Joyce: Contemporary Shouts From Contemporary Voices
Following the release of Dose Your Dreams, Fucked up “secretly” put together a series of spinoff releases that they recorded. One of the sneaky records has been released by Static Shock Records and is called Raise Your Voice Joyce: Contemporary Shouts from Contemporary Voices. The record’s product description only lists the LP as “a small piece of the limitless history of women in revolt,” never mentioning the Canadian hardcore punk band whatsoever.
Julian Plenti (A.K.A. Interpol’s Paul Banks) – Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper
Interpol’s Paul Banks released his first solo album, Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper under the pseudonym Julian Plenti. The album, which was released on August 4th, 2009, is one part folky lullabies and one part energetic alt-rock jams. Pitchfork refers to Banks’ alternate persona as his “Eurotrash-y recording alias,” giving the album praise for its individuality and distinctive lyrical cynicism.
Parkay Quarts (A.K.A. Parquet Courts) – Content Nausea
Parquet Courts mysteriously made a slight alteration to their name, changing it to Parkay Quarts for some European shows and the release of 2014’s Content Nausea. It’s likely because Parkay Quarts only featured the original band’s two frontmen and principal songwriters, Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, alongside the help of a selection of friends.
Passengers (A.K.A. U2) – Original Soundtracks 1
Before embarking on their PopMart tour, U2 temporarily rebranded themselves as Passengers when Brian Eno hopped on board so that they could set their new sound apart from U2’s more conventional rock tracks. Under their new name, they recorded the experimentalOriginal Soundtracks 1, which was primarily inspired by imaginary films.
The Lash (A.K.A. The Clash) – House of the Ju Ju Queen
In 1983, The Clash momentarily ditched the “C” to reform as The Lash when they recorded and released House of the Ju Ju Queen with cabaret singer Janie Jones. Jones had gotten sentenced to prison in 1974 for seven years for control of solicitation, but was released three years later in 1977.
Larry Lurex (A.K.A. Freddie Mercury) – “I Can Hear Music”
This one is just a single, but definitely worth a mention. When Queen was recording their first album, legendary frontman Freddie Mercury made a one off single for EMI with producer Robin Geoffrey Cable called “I Can Hear Music,” which was released under the name Larry Lurex (inspired by Gary Glitter).
An Artist-less, Title-less Album by Prince
Prince’s follow up to 1987’s Sign O’ the Times was originally marketed as a vinyl in a black sleeve with no title, artist name, or photography, which notoriously earned the record the name The Black Album. A week before the release, Prince called the record “evil,” and pulled all 500,000 copies of the album, ordering them to be destroyed. The album later become one of the rarest vinyl records in the world, and one copy of the album sold on Discogs for a whopping $15,000 in 2016.
Los Unidades (A.K.A. Coldplay) – “Competition”
Coldplay recently made a return under a new name called Los Unidades, through which they released a set of tracks called Global Citizen – EP 1. “Los Unidades” translates directly to The Units, and is very similar sounding to the words “unity (unidad)” or “the united (los unidos),” but Coldplay seems to have made a pretty big slip up on this one, using the male plural of “Los” when they should have prefaced Unidades with the feminine “Las.”
The Desert Sessions (A.K.A. Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme) –
Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme founded a musical collective series called The Desert Sessions in 1997, which features contributions from huge artists like PJ Harvey, Chris Goss, Brant Bjork, Dave Catching, and more. Between 1997 and 2003, The Desert Sessions dropped 10 separate volumes that were stacked with legendary tracks and iconic artists.
Chris Gaines (A.K.A. Garth Brooks)
Last but not least, who could forget about Chris Gaines? In February of 1999, Garth Brooks peculiarly announced that he’d be working on a soundtrack for a film called The Lamb, recording the tracks entirely from the perspective of the fictional main character, an Australian rock star named Chris Gaines. He released only one album under the name, and it is well known of one of the weirdest musical moments of the 90s.