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IFC LIST MONTH: Best Vowel-less Groups in Music

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The idea for this list came to me after watching an episode of Wheel of Fortune where contestants were buying vowels at will. As Vanna White tapped the glowing letterboxes, I thought to myself, “What if vowels didn’t exist?”

(left: Wait, what? I’m not allowed to buy a vowel?)

How would society, or music for that matter, survive without the A,E,I,O, or U? Where would The Ramones be–whose signature hooks relied on long vowel sounds–without the freedom of using a few choice A, E, or O’s? Pronouncing band names like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin, would sound like caveman grunts. AC/DC would almost survive, but groups like A.F.I. and M.I.A. would only be down to one-letter band names. Poor Afrika Bambaataa, he needs seven letter A’s to pronounce his legendary handle. Former American Idol winner, Carrie Underwood, would be in a world of hurt considering she’s one of the few artists who boasts every single vowel in her name.

If vowels were to disappear, believe it or not, some bands would be left standing. The following musical acts have done splendidly well in the careers, all without the presence of vowels in their musical monikers:

15. *NSYNC
There’s a good chance this will be the first and last time the group *NSYNC will be mentioned on the Indie Ear Blog. Shame on me for including them, while snubbing groups like D4, BT, M83, SR-71, and +44. But–I gotta give credit where credit’s due. How many acts–whose vowel-less group name beginning with an asterisk–sold millions and millions of albums and gave the world Justin Timberlake (my favorite guilty pleasure)?

14. !!!
Not only do arty-dance-punkers, !!!, not have any vowels in their band name, but they don’t have any consonants either. !!! get extra points, because even the pronunciation of their name “Chk Chk Chk” (the group had to come up with some type of pronunciation, otherwise how do you articulate three exclamation points?) is sans vowels.

13. CSS
Brazil’s greatest indie-electro-rock export is an acronym for “Cansei de ser sexy,” which is Portuguese for tired of being sexy. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing, there’s a chance they could top this list one day. CSS’s brand new album, Donkey, is coming out this month.

12. TLC
Other girl groups have tried to match the vowel-less exploits of TLC (SWV, 3LW), but none have come close to eclipsing their popularity or mainstream appeal. I’m not going to lie to you, I wasn’t a big fan of “Waterfalls,” but T-Boz, Chilli, and Left Eye still remain in heavy rotation on my iPod with their hits, “Creep,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” and “What About Your Friends.”

11. MGMT
These Brooklyn psychedelic rockers have a sweet record deal, a debut album, Oracular Spectacular, that will probably land on most critics’ end-of-the-year Top-10 lists, and had their catchy single “Time To Pretend” in a film that also opted out of using vowels, 21.

MSTRKRFT no vowels.JPG

Talk about cross over appeal. After pulling the plug on his powerhouse punk duo, Death From Above 1979–and breaking many indie kids’ hearts–Jessie Keeler and his production partner Al-P, formed the consonant-heavy MSTRKRFT, and won over a legion of fanatic dance fans in the process.

(left: Jessie Keeler and Al-P of MSTRKRFT. You can pronounce the vowels, just make sure you don’t spell them.)

9. MxPx
This established punk-pop group started out with the band name Magnified Plaid, which was later shortened to M.P. While designing a flyer for the band, drummer Yuri Husted, wrote X’s in place of periods. MxPx stuck (it is kind of catchy, isn’t it?), and years later their revised moniker would qualify them as one of the best vowel-less groups in music.

8. 311
Just think, if 311 stuck with their original name, Fish Hippos, they wouldn’t have even made this list. In the 90’s, the group rose from college rock faves to mainstream darlings. Fortunately, their particular hybrid of rhymes-and-rock lacked the aggression and violence that many of their peers took to new lows in the late 90’s.

My industrial-rock buddies from college–the same ones who tried to convince me that the band’s name was an acronym for Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode–will argue that this group needs to be higher on the list. Instead of moving them up, I considered MDFMK (a temporary regrouping of certain members of KMFDM) for inclusion on the list. Because I thought it would confuse the hell out of people, I decided not to.

6. XTC
Coincidentally, after being turned down by a vowel-less record label (CBS), the Helium Kidz followed suit and changed their name to XTC. A record deal soon followed and the British pop band brought their ever-catchy sound to the masses. Not only did XTC not believe in using vowels for their band name, but after battling intense stage fright, frontman Andy Partridge, didn’t believe in touring either as XTC primarily became a studio band. Years after their heyday XTC inspired a legion of pop-loving indie acts, while Partridge in turn, became a huge fan of The Apples In Stereo.

5. B-52’s
How many acts with vowels in their band name can claim that they are new wave legends, boast a hit that you’ll hear at most wedding receptions, have teamed up with R.E.M. on a feel-good single, and inspired a young Kurt Cobain? Let us not forget about “Rock Lobster” and “Private Idaho” either.

4. X
When people speak of late 70’s California punk bands, one of the first names mentioned, well, one of the first letters mentioned is X. Dropping names like X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka will still get you brownie points in many punk rock circles.


3. MC5
What can we say about the MC5 (short for Motor City Five)? They are regarded as one of the most important hard rock bands of their era. Some younger music fans may recognize their song “Kick Out the Jams”, which has been covered by various bands (including Rage Against the Machine on Renegades). At the turn of the century, many media outlets started talking about the MC5 again, as like-minded garage bands, The Strokes and The White Stripes, began making a dent on mainstream rock.

(above: MC5, they didn’t need shirts and they didn’t need vowels.)

2. Styx
The first band, vowel bands included, to have four consecutive albums certified platinum. They’ve got a boatload (or I should say, spaceship-load) of hits, brought a whole new level of theatrics to rock music, and are the creators of “Mr. Roboto,” the greatest robot song in the history of music (sorry Daft Punk).

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd
Three words for you “Sweet Home Alabama”–hands down, the greatest Southern rock anthem ever created. It’s no secret that the classic tune is a battle track aimed at Neil Young: “Well, I hope Neil Young will remember that a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” Apparently, Young made light of the fact that Lynyrd Skynyrd had no vowels in their band name. To further escalate the situation, Young also bragged that his previous group, Buffalo Springfield, had every vowel represented in the title of their band. Little did he know that Lynyrd Skynyrd–many years later–would top a list for doing the exact opposite.

This list marks day 7 of IFC’s List Month — check back here for a new list every weekday!

< — Back to day 4 -- Ten Bittersweet Patriotic Films.
Forward to day 8 — Best Bald People in Music — >


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…