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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.

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10. MSTRKRFT
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.

7. KMFDM
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.

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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 — >

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.