Anyone who has ever played in a band can tell you the quickest way to destabilize a lineup is to take an official group photo.
It's like the Sports Illustrated cover curse. It virtually guarantees that a member will quit, get fired or suffer a gruesome death.
Yet it's a practical necessity because the promo photo is often as important to an up-and-coming act as its songs. It's an instant calling card - the first impression - for what a group has to offer musically. And despite the advent of new marketing technologies, the old-fashioned 8x10 glossy band photo remains as vital to the industry as it was during rock's heyday.
It's also a source of constant amusement around the office. That's why we sometimes play a variety of games with submitted photos - particularly the ones featuring oh-so-serious poses - such as using a Sharpie to supply facetious thought bubbles above members' heads.
Fortunately, for those who would like to play along with our childish games, a Web site called rockandrollconfidential.com allows readers to send in the worst local and national band photos they've come across. Then the editors of the site provide their own commentary that is usually hilarious and often just plain cruel.
Direct links to the gallery can be found here.
What tends to make for a yucky, embarrassing band photo? Certain qualities surface over and over.
First off, any fashion statement from the 1980s is a culprit. It's hard to look cool in parachute pants and Japanese headbands.
Second to clothing/hairstyle atrocities is the setting. If a band really wants to telegraph a lack of creativity, then all it has to do is take a photo in front of a brick wall or walking on a set of train tracks.
Third, going shirtless.
Fourth, wearing sunglasses indoors.
Fifth, everyone in the photo caught jumping in midair.
But the site is hardly just about ribbing those obvious cliches. Bands frequently pull out the stops when staging a promo photo. And the more outrageous the visual gumbo, the heartier the punch line.
For instance, in one entry a ground-level lens looks up at an ensemble of beefy rockers who encircle the frame. The caption reads: "The last thing a Domino Pizza sees."
Or there's a trio that sports the lineup of two middle-aged men and one junior-high-aged drummer wedged between them. The group's faux name is listed as "The Namblaphonics."
My favorite is one set in a wooded cemetery where a quartet of dudes poses decked in feed caps and inexplicably clutching medieval swords. The Monty Python-inspired caption reads: "We are the knights who say NASCAR."