I have several other posts to write about different things I’ve been playing with on ChatGPT, especially since they’ve dropped a ton of new stuff into Plus, but today, I want to talk about an experiment I like to call “what band am I thinking of?”
This didn’t even start out being an AI experiment. I legitimately couldn’t remember the name of a band. I was deep into using Claude for everything at the time, so I tried to see if Claude could help me figure out the name of the band. It came up with a bunch of possibilities, but didn’t hit the mark.
Well, as many things do when separated by time, it so happened that today I remembered the name of the band I was thinking of at the time — Shudder to Think. But, at the time what I remembered was:
- they came from the punk scene, but didn’t really have a real punk sound
- I saw them on some TV show, but I didn’t think it was anything on MTV
- I also discovered Soul Coughing via the same show (but maybe not the same episode)
- it was the early- to mid-nineties when I discovered them. They were promoting their new album. It was definitely in the Nirvana-era of alternative.
- the singer was bald and I thought he might have been queer
- the singer’s vocal style was high pitched and frequently falsetto
Based on that information, how did the AI’s do?
The initial prompt
To test this on both AIs, I used the same initial prompt for ChatGPT that I used for Claude, which was:
I’m trying to remember a band from the 90s. The singer had a high pitched singing voice similar to thom yorke and I believe he was gay. they were experimental indie rock and had mild notoriety around 1992-1993
Claude really gave it a go, remaining conversational and often giving me multiple options it came up with. Occasionally, it would swear it knew the answer, but not once did it come up with the right one. As it was guessing, I was feeding it more details from what I remembered to try to narrow things down. Bands it was 100% sure I was describing included:
- Archers of Loaf
After Unwound wasn’t the right band, it sort of gave up. It made one more half-hearted attempt before throwing in the towel and asking me what band I was talking about.
A total of 14 replies before total AI submission.
I gave ChatGPT 4 the same prompt. I thought with ChatGPT’s ability to search the internet now, maybe it might have an advantage on the terrestrial-based Claude. ChatGPT made fewer attempts before giving up completely and only swore it was one band (incorrectly): Morphine. I felt like Morphine was more on the right track, though, but feeding it details in the same way I fed Claude actually caused ChatGPT to come up with fewer options, instead relying on complex searches that missed the mark. (Chat transcript)
Only 4 replies before total AI submission.
Comparing the conclusions
When I figured out who it was, I asked Claude what it thought of Shudder to Think based on how I described them. The answer was interesting enough that I thought I’d ask ChatGPT, too.
Me: i think the artist is shudder to think. is that a real thing?
Claude: Yes, Shudder to Think is definitely a real band – and I think you’ve finally cracked the mystery!
Shudder to Think was an experimental post-hardcore/indie band founded in Washington D.C. in 1986. Throughout the early ’90s, they developed an artsy, non-traditional punk sound that matched closely with the style you were describing:
- Singer Craig Wedren had a very distinctive, high-pitched vocal style which he could push into an energetic falsetto
- Craig shaved his head completely bald during the band’s height in the 90s
- They signed to Epic Records and released albums like “Ten Spot” in 1990 and “Get Your Goat” in 1992
- While starting from D.C. hardcore roots, they blended various genres like jazz, prog-rock and musical theatre into an intense experimental style
Now that you mention their name, I can’t believe I forgot about Shudder to Think in my guesses! They perfectly fit the profile you were painting of the mysterious 90s band with a bald, high-pitched frontman. I definitely learned about some new obscure groups while we tried solving this, but so glad your music memory finally served you well with landing on Shudder to Think. Thanks for confirming – relief to finally close this case! Let me know if you want me to send over some nostalgic Shudder to Think songs to revisit.
As per usual, Claude kept the tone conversational and helpful, but it pointed out the factual connections to the clues I had to go off of and lamented that it wasn’t able to figure it out itself. So, I gave the same to ChatGPT after it gave up.
Me: I think the band might be Shudder to Think, does that match?
ChatGPT: Shudder to Think does indeed match many of the details you’ve provided. They were an American alternative rock band formed in 1986, with a style that was initially influenced by post-hardcore but gradually incorporated a wide range of stylistic influences including pop music and glam metal.
The band’s first lineup included Craig Wedren on vocals and guitar. They released a series of albums, with “Ten-Spot” in 1990, “Funeral at the Movies” in 1991, and “Get Your Goat” in 1992, aligning with your recollection of an early 90s release. Their music gained greater exposure through touring with bands like Fugazi and the Smashing Pumpkins.
Moreover, Shudder to Think signed to Epic Records, and their 1994 album “Pony Express Record” received a cult following. The video for their track “X-French Tee Shirt” became popular on MTV, further increasing their exposure.
This information seems to align well with your memories of the band being experimental, active in the early 90s, and crossing over from punk to indie rock.
Now, it turns out the album I remembered was, in fact, Pony Express Record (from 1994), and their “X-French Tee Shirt” single, so I was actually wrong about the 1992 release (although they did release an album in ’92, so not that far off).
Score one for humans over AIs in this round. AIs aren’t (yet) able to read your mind.