The 8 Best Power Trios of Our Generation

by Jason Gross @SockofFleagulls on April 17, 2012

in Music, The 80s

Wikipedia defines a power trio as “a rock and roll band format typically having a lineup of guitar, bass, and drums. “ I define it as the purest form of rock and roll, simple yet influential. Some of the early power trios were Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience in the 1960s. Since then, bands have tweaked the standard definition by removing the bass or electric guitar and adding in keyboards and other instruments. Yet, over the course of the past three decades, the essence of the power trio still remains.

I recently got the notion to go through my music collection (CDs and cassettes) and I noticed that I’ve collected a lot of music from power trios through the years. I’m a big fan of “less is more” when it comes to music, not that I don’t enjoy the larger bands with many instruments. I’ve already spoken about the lost art of the saxophone solo and how modern music could stand to integrate them back into existence. But it’s my opinion that music is at its finest when power trios are atop the charts.

Here are the power trios that I have revered over the course of 80s, 90s, and 00s. I’ll also give you a couple of trios on my radar over the past couple years that could have an impact on the music industry in the future.



O Canada! Rush is one of the most influential power trios of modern day rock, heralded by such bands as Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, and Primus. Geddy Lee’s ability to mix the bass guitar and keyboards launched the band above the traditional power trio definition and into limitless progressive rock. Add in the amazing talents of Alex Lifeson on lead guitar and Neil Peart on drums and you have a formula that has produced 10 platinum albums in the US (13 in Canada) from the mid 70s to early 90s.

Proof positive: “YYZ”


The Police

Even though I don’t fault Sting for leaving The Police in 1985, I do believe that fans were cheated out of some great music. The unique rhythms laid down by Stewart Copeland, the guitar work of Andy Summers, and Sting’s vocals and bass made for great music of the course of their 7 year career in the late 70s-early 80s.

You can tell how revered they truly are by earning a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and yet, recording just 5 studio albums.

Proof Positive: “Synchronicity I”



They weren’t always trio, but from 1978-96 they proved that their refined sound was also their most successful and recognizable sound. What I think made them really unique is that Phil Collins sang the vocals from behind the drums, which is just incredible to me. Keyboard player Tony Banks was the “bass” in the power trio with Mike Rutherford on lead guitar.

It’s probably fair to say that they were more of a session power trio with the live performance adding bassist Daryl Stuemer and drummer Chester Thompson, so Collins could get out from behind the drums. But on their albums from the early 80s to mid 90s, you can still hear the 3-man sound that earned them an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Proof Positive: “Abacab” & “Living Forever”


ZZ Top

These “tres hombres” are the authority when it comes to power blues music. I mean, who would’ve thought that among all the different genres of music that were topping the charts in the mid 80s, blues rock would be one of them. ZZ Top owned the rock charts in the mid 80s, but also cracked the top ten twice on the mainstream chart.

Proof Positive: “Cheap Sunglasses”




Nirvana is one of the most influential power trios of all time, the godfathers of alternative rock. They truly had the “spirit” of those early power trios of the 60s & 70s, when the album Nevermind topped the charts in 1991.

Nirvana opened the door to Seattle’s grunge era and gave the world a pure rock and roll sound that has been the basis for many bands’ existence. Kobain’s death ended the band’s career, but definitely not its legacy.

Proof Positive: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”


Green Day

In 1994, Green Day began their ascent to power trio icons by ushering punk rock attitude into the alternative scene. Their album Dookie remains their best selling to date, achieving diamond status (10 million in sales) in the US alone.

They continue to have influential success in the present day, collaborating in 2009 to convert their American Idiot album into a critical acclaimed Broadway musical.

Proof Positive: “Welcome To Paradise”




At the turn of the century, Blink-182 became a very influential power trio…mostly to teenage girls it seems but nonetheless, they made a tremendous impact on alternative rock.

The lead vocals of both Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge give the band a great mix and Travis Barker’s drum work fits their sound perfectly.

Proof Positive: “Dammit” & “Up All Night”



Over the past decade, Muse has slowly built momentum in the rock and roll world. The extensive musical abilities of Matthew Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard give the band a transcending sound over multiple rock genres.

Even though their sound changes sometimes from song to song, they still hold true to the power trio essence.

Proof Positive:  “Starlight” & “Uprising”



Future Power Trios

Crash Kings

I love the sound of this power trio. They are unique, in that there is no physical lead guitar in the band. Rather, lead singer Tony Beliveau uses a keyboard with a whammy bar for the lead guitar solos and another keyboard for traditional piano sounds.

They have put out one studio album so far, with a second planned for 2012. I’ve got high expectations to say the least!

Proof Positive: “Mountain Man”


Civil Twilight

Many of you who know me or follow me on Twitter know how I feel about Civil Twilight. For those that don’t, I believe they could one day be as big as U2 or Coldplay…mainly because I hear both of those bands when I listen to them. They have a great sound with lead singer Steven McKellar playing both bass and keyboards.

A really unique factor is how his brother Andrew McKellar plays lead guitar. It’s not traditional by any means as he uses his electric guitar for mainly reverb and feedback instead of solos. He also uses what I believe is a cello bow to play his electric guitar for a few songs, which I had never seen before until I saw them in 2010. They just released their sophomore album Holy Weather, but I would high recommend checking out their self titled debut album first. They also do killer covers of the House theme “Teardrop” and Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”.

Proof Positive: “Letters From The Sky” & “Fire Escape”


That’s my take on power trios. (Glad I got to venture outside of the 80s for awhile!) There are many more bands that I could name drop here, but I’ll leave that up to you UnderScoopFire fans to fill in the gaps. See you in the comment section!


Jason Gross is a child of the 80s and loves to subject his two sons to cartoons, TV, movies, and music from the decade. Currently promoting a M.A.S.K. live-action movie script (co-writer), he also enjoys freelance writing about 80s music & pop culture. Background includes radio broadcasting and B2B direct marketing. Follow Jason on Twitter@SockOfFleagulls and check out Rediscover the 80s!


Lamar the Revenger April 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

Rush is on this list. Good. I was afraid to disown you all.

Jason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) April 17, 2012 at 10:09 am

They really need to be in the Rock Hall….someone start a twitition!!

S April 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Agree wholeheartedly with RUSH; it’s other worldly.
Couple of the others are in the same star system like Police, Genesis, & ZZTop.
Nice post.

Jason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) April 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Thanks…sounds like I’m amongst other Rush fans. Very good to know…

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