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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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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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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…

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Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

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Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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