Friday, May 28, 2010

Review #121: Devo - Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo! (1978)


Year: 1978
Genre: Punk Rock
Warner Bros. Records
34 Minutes
My Rating:

Alright, alright... I have not listened to Devo a whole ton. But I've heard some good stuff about them. As one of the earliest and most well-known post-punk/new wave bands, they're actually older than the Ramones! The group was formed by a bunch of nerds from my home state of Ohio -- the name (originally spelled 'DE-EVOLUTION') was supposed to be based upon the concept that the human race in the modern age has actually been devolving! In 1974, the band created a long-form music video called "The Truth About De-Evolution" -- in 1977, it won first prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. After years of existence, they released their first single for their song "Mongoloid" in 1977 -- the year that punk was hitting an all-time high. The music on this debut LP seems to be grittier and more post-punk than new wave. But, I'm going to listen to this record now, and you can follow along if you haven't already heard it or just make fun of my opinions if you already have. Alright? Let's go.

1. Uncontrollable Urge
The riff here is really cool. The vocals are very enthusiastic and energetic. The tempo shifts back and forth from a more straightforward beat to a more intense one. The chorus riff is real cool, too, and there's some neat backing vocals in those part. Nice use of tape-manipulation about 3/4 through the song. A few beepy noises towards the end.

2. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
This song's a bit slower. It's a Rolling Stones cover. The music is significantly weirder-sounding, with some atonal guitar sounds that soar around, and a funkier bassline. Some synths are used in the chorus-section towards the end of the song -- they sound real cool.

3. Praying Hands
Damn, there's some hilariously strange weird sounds in the beginning of this song. The song is sort of a criticism of religion, proclaiming the lines "assume the position... go into doggie submission", comparing a person dogmaticly praying to a person "receiving" from an imaginary patriarch.

4. Space Junk
He said "junk"... huhuhuhuhuhh... but yeah, anyways, there's some more synth keyboards on this song. I like it. The melody is pretty happy-sounding and cool n' stuff. Lots of tiny little subtleties in the background that might not be caught upon the first listen. The song seems to be about junk falling from space to the surface of the Earth and hitting various people, much to the protagonist's dismay. Maybe a statement on how we need to be careful what we're putting up in our atmosphere.

5. Mongoloid
An earlier version of this song on the A-side of the band's first single. The synth sounds remind me of the music from the sorts of video games I was obsessed with as a young'n. I guess the song's about a kid with Mongolism (Down's Syndrome), but he has an extra chromosome so nobody knows it and he's able to live a 'normal' life. The riff and melody is pretty cool, and entertaining as the rest of the songs on here all seem to be so far.

6. Jocko Homo
For some reason I instantly recognized the very beginning music from this song. I have no idea how. Perhaps a memory from a past life... who knows? "ARE WE NOT MEN? WE ARE DEVO!". Very quirky beat and more oddities interspersed around the main guitar riff. This song was the B-side to the "Mongoloid" single from 1977, but this is a new re-recorded version. This song heavily focuses on the whole "de-evolution" concept, referring to modern humans as "monkey men all in business suits". "God made Man, but he used a Monkey to do it." End of Side 1.

7. Too Much Paranoias
Extremely cool and dangerous-sounding riff. The song seems to be about how people these days are afraid of nearly everything. The mid-section of the song is comprised of some bizarre sounds made with guitars. The final part sounds much like the first part. Good song.

8. Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy)
These are two songs in one. Gut Feeling has a wonderful-sounding melody done with a relatively clean-sounding electric guitar and a basic punk rock beat. Some synth piano and synth organ begin to accompany the other instruments around the 1-minute mark. The keyboard melody continually ascends higher and higher, until cutting off when the first sung line begins. The lyrics describe what sounds like a break-up. The music gets more aggressive towards the end, with a layer of noizy fucked-up guitar playing over the song, and the beat gets more intense. Gut Feeling ends with a SCREAM! "Slap Your Mammy" is a short, fast song (sort of like hardcore punk but not as angry). The lyrics here are just kinda nonsensical, singing about slappin' your parents and stuff.

9. Come Back Jonee
This song's about a boy named Jonee who decides to become a rock-star. He buys a guitar, leaves everyone else behind, including a certain un-named woman (I'm not sure if it's his mother or his girlfriend or something), and "makes her cry" as she asks for him to come back. Sort of something I had and have contemplated a few times before. Sort of a sad song and a happy song at the same time. Later in the song, there are some female backing vocals yelling "JONEE, JONEE!". Either that or dudes who sound like chicks. I dunno. Good song, though.

10. Sloopy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')
Probably my least favorite song on here. It's alright. The lyrics are about relationships again. It's fast.

11. Shrivel Up
Weird guitar melody here. The song seems to simply be about the fact that we're all just slowly shriveling up and dying day by day. YAEY!!! Kind of dark and funny at the same time. I guess we call that satire/sarcasm. Heh heh. Well, time to go shrivel up...

It's easy to write Devo off at first glance as another 'new wave' band or because you didn't like the song "Whip It" or something like that, but personally, I think this is a really good record! The music is very intelligent, weird, and sometimes REALLY weird at times. Artists like Iggy Pop proclaimed the band "the future of punk" -- well, that wasn't quite the case, but sometimes a good thing is better off untarnished by mass replication. Especially if it's difficult to replicate. Well, perhaps I shall review some more Devo records in the future. Before this, there was an EP entitled "Be Stiff" from 1977 that contains songs from even earlier sessions than this album. That's all I've got to say for right now. Seeya.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Gut Feeling
2. Uncontrollable Urge
3. Too Much Paranoias


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