Tuesday, December 29, 2009

447. Q. Are we not men? A. No we are Devo! -Q. Are we not irritating? A. God yes.


Album: Q. Are we not men? A. No we are Devo!

Artist: Devo.

Year: 1978

Genre: Wank.

Tracks.

  1. Uncontrollable Urge
  2. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
  3. Praying Hands
  4. Space Junk
  5. Mongoloid
  6. Jocko Homo
  7. Too Much Paranoias
  8. Gut Feeling
  9. Come Back Jonee
  10. Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')
  11. Shrivel Up


“So can we have a recording contract please?”

“No. Your music is grating and repetitive.”

“You don’t think it’s quirky?”

“No, just annoying.”

“What if we wore silly costumes and flower pots on our heads?”

“Sign here.”

I seriously thought about making this review consist of just the phrase “This music is repetitive and annoying” printed in the most irritating font I could find and copied 500 times. While it would have been a perfect facsimile of Devo’s music but a huge cop out and so something I avoided.

Devo’s biggest hit is definitely Whip It, which became successful mainly due to the nasty video clip which features the lead singer of Devo whipping the clothes off a pained looking girl who ended up in revealing lingerie. It lacked taste and was therefore a pretty good representation of the song itself. I’ve always hated Whip It and wasn’t looking forward to coming across it when I listened to this album. To my relief Whip It doesn’t actually appear on Are We Not Men but to my despair there are loads of songs which are just as bad if not worse.

For some reason best known to their flower-potted selves the members of Devo decided to cover I can’t get no Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. Obviously I’m a huge fan of the original track but that doesn’t mean I believe it should never be covered. I’m all for a quirky cover as long as it brings something new and worthwhile to the table. Hendrix didn’t just cover All along the watchtower he reinvented it with respect to the original. Devo do much the same with Satisfaction only without any of the talent. The problem is that Devo’s version isn’t a cover it’s basically a recital with unrelated backing. A key part of the original track is the riff which is just as memorable as the vocal lines. Devo decided to drop the iconic chords completely and replace it with the sort of electronic cotton-wool that pads the rest of the album. All that we’re left with from the original song are the vocals which are whined in an atonal nasal drone complete with sudden leaps up the register for no really compelling reason. I can’t describe how annoying this is.

For Devo fans (has anyone ever met one?) the biggest tracks on this release are Mongoloid and Jocko Homo, which is sort of a Devo fan's national anthem. The latter track was the single release from this album and the source of its title. In amongst the annoying noises and repeated riff that make up the backing wells a repeated question: “Are we not men?” bleats the lead singer in that nails-on-a-blackboard voice to which the rest of the band reply: “We are devo” in their best robot voices. Apparently this sort of tosh really goes off in concert. The fans just lap it up. I hate making judgment calls about a band’s fanbase but I can’t help but picture devo-tees as ever-so-slightly nerdy. They’re probably huge fans of Stephen Hawking, not just as a scientific thinker but also as a vocalist.

Mongoloid is a light-heartedly offensive song about someone with Downs Syndrome who apparently fits into American society so well nobody notices his disability. You could argue that their poking fun at the USA and not at those with Downs Syndrome but even as early as the seventies Mongoloid was considered a derogatory term. The instrumentation on this track and the entire album is simple and tedious stuff. I could go into any high school in the country and find teenagers who could play this stuff but I doubt I’d find anyone who would want to.

Taken as simply a comic satire, Devo probably have something to offer the world. They saw themselves as commenting on the Devolution of the Human race and their statements about the direction humanity is headed probably have some validity. Pity it sounds so damn awful.

Highlight: Kudos to them for sticking with the idea of looking like prannies for going on thirty years now.

Lowlight: The music.

Influenced by: Books. There’s your problem right there.

Influenced: New Wave. So it’s their fault.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I liked this when it first came out b/c I was 16. I was a rebel, wanted to be part of something different. This is their best work since the weirdness does get lame after a while.

Favorite song is Mongoloid...totally strange but rocking song. "Uncontrollable Urge" rocks (in a weird way) and Come Back Johnny is almost a conventional song. Satisfaction is completely unique but its not a good song. The group was obviously trying to do more than music and develop a KISS, multi media, making money kind of thing.

I saw them live (they were horrible) during their hey day. The most interesting thing about them is while other odd bands were eventually accepted and integrated into the mainstream, DEVO is still as odd of a group as ever. Mark Motherbough does a lot of soundtrack work (Rugrats) and you can hear the DEVO in all of his work.

Anybody that gives this novelty group 5 stars is cheapening what true excellent music is. DEVO came out as a Goof, not as serious musicians. They got big in the 70's b/c they were part of the new wave and kids (like me) were looking for alternative music that we can claim our own."

-Interesting review, I really like his point about five-star ratings. He gave the album two stars by the way.

So are you DEVOted to DEVO or Can't you get any satisfaction from their albums? Let me know below.

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