December 31, 2014

Good Things Come in Threes

Sure, it’s easy to sit back and brainstorm about bands whose name consists of no more than four letters. INXS, Korn, Asia, Hole, Rush, Chic, Styx, Toto, Abba, we could go on and on….
But, here are some of those brave pioneers of rock who boldly wrapped their identity in names consisting of three letters or less:

ABC With Martin Fry’s lush, crooning voice, hits from this Sheffield, Yorkshire band of the ‘80s like, “When Smokey Sings,” “Be Near Me,” and “The Look of Love” rose in the U.S. charts to #5, #9, and #18 respectively.
A-hahhhhhhhhhhhhhh This Norwegian pop band, whose name was chosen because it was a universally-recognized exclamation, traversed the fjord of success by reaching number 1 with their MTV darling, “Take on Me.”
Air Heralded by music critics everywhere as one of the best albums of 1998, French duo Air’s “Moon Safari” debut floated dreamy soundscapes through smoky St. Tropez lounges and international cosmetic ads.
Ash Punk power pop sounds from this northern Ireland band drew comparisons with Brit bad boys Oasis and helped fan the flames of commerce, driving their 1996 album, “1977” to number 1 on the UK charts.
Can Germans and avant-garde electronic rock seem to be inseparable and Can certainly didn’t stray far from this stereotype. Unfortunately, “I Want More” featuring Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on guitar was their only chart appearance.
dB’s The decibels were just right for this charming pop group out of North Carolina. Their jangly, knowing songs caught the ears of R.E.M. in the late 1970s, and dBers Peter Holsapple and Mitch Easter soon went to work with the Athens, Georgia band on several efforts.
E “A Man Called E” and “Broken Toy Shop” were wry, melodic, albums by this Southern California musician, whose layered sounds caught the ears of Msrs. Spielberg, Geffen and Katzenberg. They promptly made E and his new band Eels one of their first DreamWorks acts in 1997.
EMF Whichever meaning their name stood for (either “Epson Mad Funkers” or “Ecstasy Mother F**kers”), this Gloucester band made the incredible leap to number one on the U.S. charts in July 1991 with their bouncy jive smash “Unbelievable.”
L7 The preeminent riot grrrl group of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, L7’s all-female punk pedal-to-the-metal songs like “Pretend We’re Dead” and albums like “Hungry for Stink” stomped on the moaning, navel-gazing grunge movement of the period like Joan Jett guest speaking at a Junior League lunch.
NWA Bustin’ out of the South Central ravages circa 1986, NWA (N***ers With Attitude) shouted their rap milestone bestsellers “F**k tha Police,” “Straight Outta Compton,” and “Gangsta Gangsta,” to a world of controversy and disaffected youth.
R.E.M. “We’re thinking about Rapid Eye Movement,” drummer Bill Berry said to this author and assorted hall-mates, as he thumbed through a biology book late one night at his University of Georgia dorm. In what seemed like a blink of the eye, R.E.M went on to score eye-popping success with scads of hits and two number 1 albums, “Out of Time” and “Monster.”
TLC Not quite named after their tender loving care, TLC are the first initials of the performers’ nicknames (T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli), and Grammy darlings like “Waterfalls,” “Creeps,” and “No Scrubs” have all cracked the U.S. top 10 charts.
UFO Formed and reformed over the years since 1969, this London band known for its trippy “space-rock” has gained notoriety more for its abuse of drugs, alcohol, other bands, and hotels than for crafting any Undeniably Formidable Opuses.
U2 Gliding smoothly from political rock to electronic pop, Dublin’s U2 has always fashioned its hits, like their number 1 singles “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” with an urgency and conviction that only the best craftsmen of rock are able to consistently churn out.
War With their name chosen as a stark counterpoint to the peace music of their day, War’s anthem funk, from their number 1 album “The World Is A Ghetto” and their hits “The Cisco Kid,” “Low Rider,” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” roused people to leave their complacent state behind.
X Guilt, paranoia, and wretched excess defined the art punk themes of X, whose crashing 2 minute songs were the high watermark of the early ‘80s LA underground scene. Ray Manzarek of The Doors helped capture their raw wire sound as producer of X’s first four albums.
XTC Their biggest selling album in the U.S., 1986’s “Skylarking,” sold a respectable 250,000 copies, but sales figures are not what keeps fans of this British band xtatic. For 20 years critics have consistently praised the tinkering nuance and thoughtful melodies which have filled XTC’s catalog.
Yes With more lives than Friday the 13th’s Jason, Yes has perennially rotated its lineup but never its unique sound. Known for their progressive jams in the ‘70s on hits like “Roundabout” and “Close to the Edge,” Jon Anderson’s haunting vocals finally scored a number one in 1984 with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
Ned Truslowwwwwwwwwww

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