Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo


Warner Brothers, 1978


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Between the not-quite-of-this-world band of nerds known as Devo and the retro party outfit known as the B-52’s, you would think that Warner Bros. Records completely lost their minds when unleashing both acts on an unsuspecting public in the late ‘70s. They put their native states of Ohio and Georgia on the music map, although their success would be limited. Neither group had the intention of being labeled as a novelty act, but because they were so unique, the mainstream American listeners didn’t quite know what to do with them.

Oh, but I did. Their debuts came with bright yellow sleeves, so you really couldn’t miss ‘em if you tried. Devo had the unenviable task of being launched first, with a rather twisted, angular guitar-oriented affair with the convoluted title you see listed above. The opening cut “Uncontrollable Urge” sets the tone. Midwestern sexual repression explodes in a blast of frenetic drums, guitar and bass. You can almost see the dancing sperm from Woody Allen’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sleeper providing the visual. Double entendres abound throughout this debut album, even including the Stones classic “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” for good measure (which was later used to thrilling effect in Martin Scorsese’s film Casino).

You almost have to feel sorry for these boys. They obviously haven’t had much luck with the ladies, hence their daring with such risqué material. You need not be a genius to know what they are singing about. Maybe by forming a band even they would have groupies! Of course, putting a Dapper Dan/Matt Damon lookalike on the album cover couldn’t hurt…

The more carnal stuff is set aside for left-turn detours into songs about space junk, mongoloids and even Big Macs. Nothing is safe or sacred from these jokers. It’s the Revenge Of The Nerds set to primitive, yet still futuristic music. The high point is the official Devo theme song “Jocko Homo,” which builds to an impressive crescendo that sounds even better on a set of headphones or booming out of big speakers on a slam-dance floor.

While this first record doesn’t have the immediate payoff that subsequent ones like Freedom Of Choice, New Traditionalists or Oh No, It’s Devo do, it does warrant repeat listens to get the full effect of what they were going for. The problem stems from too many tunes sounding alike, thus they all tend to blur together. Had they chosen a different producer than the obscure Roxy Music alum Brian Eno, these songs may have had a longer shelf life and broader appeal (though other critics do point to this as Devo’s greatest achievement). To each his own, but this was NOT where my love of all things Devo started. That occurred with their breakthrough hit single from 1980, “Whip It,” a roller skating favorite of many. It’s their biggest Billboard hit by a long shot, though I wouldn’t ever call Devo one-hit wonders. They deserve a much better fate than that.

Give this purveyor of the New Wave movement a spin. It just might prove to be irresistible.

In a world that’s constantly DE-VOLVING, geeks, pinheads and other misfits need your love too.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.