10 Reasons Why We Should Submit and Make Devo Our All-Powerful Masters
by Donny Kutzbach
1) Devo is not simply a rock band, it is a way to spread a message about the core of humanity to the masses. The 1977 song “Jocko Homo” is not simply a catchy, keyboard-driven bit of electropop but a manifesto that in a nutshell reveals the complete truth about the theory of De-evolution. It allows for every man, woman, and mutant to know this truth: We’re all just pinhead monkey men. In the end, we must face the facts: We’re all Devo.
2) Devo was formed at Kent State University following the tumult of 1970 shootings on that campus. Students Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale along with Bob Lewis started exploring ideas in art. By 1973, Mothersbaugh and Casale later recruited a brother each—both named Bob—and started incorporating elements of surrealism and sci-fi, making music and turning rock shows into their own berserk performance art.
3) Early supporters of the band were David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who helped get Warner Brothers to ink the band to deal. The first album, 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, was produced by Brian Eno and recorded primarily in Germany. It remains a game-changing modern rock masterstroke of mechanized beeps, unrelenting beats, and that de-evolutionary rhetoric that’s utterly funky, absurd, genius, and surprisingly, not so far below the surface, warmly human.
4) Devo didn’t invent music videos, but the clip for their biggest hit, 1980’s “Whip It,” was one of MTV’s earliest sensations and—complete with signature red “energy dome” hats, some beer-swilling cowboys, and hints of S&M—remains not only one of Devo’s most memorable media moments but also a totem of 1980s culture. Devo is one of music video’s most iconic bands, and there’s a plethora of their material to love. A search of YouTube can result in hours of education and fun. The disturbing chicken people of “Love Without Anger” or rubber-masked Mothersbaugh as band mascot Booji Boy singing “Beautiful World” are just the tip of the iceberg.
5) In early Devo days, the band is said to have played at a bar near their hometown of Akron, Ohio where the rock clientele was not quite receptive to their unique sound, stage outfits, and message of de-evolution. When the audience’s demeanor got ugly and someone demanded a cover song, Mothersbaugh declared that they would play a song by Aerosmith. “It’s called ‘Mongoloid,” he would say, then launch into Devo’s herky-jerky synth-punk masterpiece.
6) While they wouldn’t give in to Ohio rednecks’ demands, it’s not like Devo can’t do great covers. The band’s twisted spin on The Rolling Stone’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is arguably the greatest complete overhaul of any Stones track. There’s also Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man” (with Bob “Bob 1” Mothersbaugh taking vocal duties), Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced,” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like Hole” to name but a few more to get the smashing Devo redo.
7) Devo’s musical influence is so big that it’s almost hard to quantify. Emerging at the dawn of punk and in essence accidentally writing the book on how to be new wave, their use of electronic instrumentation ushered in a whole the age of electronic rock. They were no slouches with guitars, either. In fact Devo songs have been covered by both Nirvana and Soundgarden: Yes, Devo were grunge before grunge. It’s fair to say Lady Gaga’s shtick is more than a little Devo in plenty of ways. And even the best have borrowed from them. Neil Young nicked his epochal line “rust never sleeps” after Devo had it as part of their act, having detourned it from an auto undercoating ad.
8) Even beyond the imprint on music, Devo’s impact on entertainment is vast. It’s hard to find a corner of popular culture that the band hasn’t crept into and been referenced in, from The Simpsons to Scorsese to the classic graphic novel The Watchmen. Devo’s shadow looms over all!
9) While some ninnies and twits will try to debunk it, Devo has always existed and will never end. Still, even Devo must rest. Sort of. In downtime from Devo, the band’s members formed Mutato Muzika in the early 1990s to create music and media that has been part of a slew of advertisements, children’s cartoons, and feature films, including a number of acclaimed pictures by director Wes Anderson. In 2006, the band even teamed with Walt Disney Company to subvert a new young generation with a Devo 2.0—a group of fresh-faced young teens performing the band’s catalog, albeit cleaned-up versions.
10) It is Devo Now For Future! The Spudboys have returned in full force in 2010 with the just-released Something for Everyone (Warner Brothers), their first album in 20 years. Brothers Mothersbaugh and Casale join Josh Freese behind drums for an exuberant set that—to borrow the title of one track—sounds “Fresh” while still being decidedly Devo. The band is currently on a tour behind the album, with a stop in Buffalo, which marks the band’s first visit to Western New York in nearly three decades.
Devo comes to Town Ballroom in Buffalo for a show on Thursday, July 8.blog comments powered by Disqus
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