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Beautiful mutants I can hear in the distance - I think they're calling our name.
April 8, 2009 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Famed band Devo (mostly famous in the outside world for Top 20 hit Whip It) has a new album, due fall 2009.

The album is a follow-up to the success of their 2007 single Watch Us Work It, notably used in a Dell commercial. They're already started playing three of the songs from it live:

Don't Shoot, I'm A Man
Fresh
What We Do

Though some devotees say that Devo started to decline in quality after their third album, I wholeheartedly disagree. While their sixth and seventh albums (Shout and Total Devo, respectively) may have been mediocre (and even those had a few good cuts), their eighth album (Smooth Noodle Maps), featuring a cover of Morning Dew, is surprisingly overlooked. The new material most resembles songs from their eighth album.

[While I fully endorse the practice of building links, I've removed some links to Wikipedia pages discussing the albums to keep this post from being just links.]

[Further, a lot of the songs I wish to link to were not available on Youtube. If you want to follow along with this post, buy their albums or torrent them and set aside about six months of your life.]
posted by LSK (54 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
best press release of the web.
posted by the aloha at 9:07 PM on April 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man, lord knows I love DEVO, but I am not looking forward to this. I'll stick with Q: Are we not men? and Freedom of Choice.

But I'm not worried about it.
posted by schyler523 at 9:13 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


After letting disney put out that Devo 2.0 album I'll have to just say fuck Devo 1.0.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:19 PM on April 8, 2009


Eliminate the ninnies and the twits.
posted by autodidact at 9:24 PM on April 8, 2009


Would you make a Tom Petty post like this?
posted by Pants! at 9:31 PM on April 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


I don't know what you're talking about.
posted by blucevalo at 9:40 PM on April 8, 2009 [2 favorites]



After letting disney put out that Devo 2.0 album I'll have to just say fuck Devo 1.0.


I'm not sure you "get" Devo.
posted by Benjy at 9:56 PM on April 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Having had the distinct pleasure of getting an advance peek at the new songs at DEVOtional 2008, I have to say the new stuff blows me away in its more polished form. I simply cannot wait for the new album. DEVO is more relevant now than ever before. Whatever the new album brings, I will purchase it in multiple formats, and attend as many concerts as I am able to.

You Should See the Other Guy: fter letting disney put out that Devo 2.0 album I'll have to just say fuck Devo 1.0.

You don't get it. To quote Jerry in a 1981 interview, "We've never tried to be obscure, we've never tried to be commercial... We're very honest about our position in the culture... DEVO takes into account that a band is just an act on a record label, working for a company... and works within that reality, being quite honest and upfront about it, using it as an aesthetic..."

DEVO 2.0 is/was three things: a trojan horse to get DEVO into people's minds, a willing satire of their own work, and a sardonic response to the idea of family-friendly music. It's not without a little bit of irony that DEVO let that project out about the same time as Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers, Jerry Casale's "solo" album, more of a DEVO side-project with a more aggressive, sardonic, and very anti-Bush Doctrine attitude. (Link goes to music video for the single "Army Girls Gone Wild".)

It can be both. DEVO must be understood through multiple-facets and multiple-angles. If all you see them as is the band with funny hats who wrote a song about jerking off, you're not getting it. DEVO is a band with a concept, an ever-evolving visual identity, and writes brilliantly satirical songs about the collapse of human society (as well as jerking off, but not the song you think is about jerking off.)
posted by SansPoint at 9:57 PM on April 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Your favorite band su-- oh wait, this is about Devo!

carry on
posted by double block and bleed at 9:57 PM on April 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I personally like New Traditionalists. But hey, youTube's got plenty of Devo cover bands. Here's one of my faves.
posted by Catblack at 9:58 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've never listened to Devo for the music.
posted by LSK at 10:10 PM on April 8, 2009


Let's not forget The Wipeouters, or Dove, Band of Love.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:12 PM on April 8, 2009


I actually did listen to DEVO for the music. So this is good news.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:24 PM on April 8, 2009


I went to the Dallas show referenced in the new album link. Mark came out at one point dressed in a giant cowboy hat and a diaper doing a George Bush impression. He reached into the diaper and started throwing superballs out into the crowd. I caught one, AND Gerry's pick, AND got to sing "Are we not men?" (just the one line) when Mark held the mike out to me during Jocko Homo. One of the best Devo shows I've been to.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 10:39 PM on April 8, 2009


Pants! BAAAAHHWAAAHWHWHAAAAAAAAA. hehehehehehehhe
posted by travis08 at 11:04 PM on April 8, 2009


They toured here a few months ago, and I was extremely privileged to see them. Older, fatter, and devolving just like the rest of us.
posted by mattoxic at 11:55 PM on April 8, 2009


Yes, this is great news. The world needs Devo now more than ever, now that everything they've ever warned us about has been proven 100% right.

As far as Devo 2.0 goes, yeah, that's a pretty clear indicator of whether you understand the first thing about Devo. Free clue: they don't fit into your indie/punk orthodoxy, never did, and exist in part to subvert it. They are really more a long-running art project/cultural satire that happens to make really great music than they are a band. Gerry Casale was talking about putting random younger people in the costumes and calling them Devo as long ago as the SmoothNoodleMaps era, and doing that fits in perfectly with their aesthetic.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:18 AM on April 9, 2009 [7 favorites]



As far as Devo 2.0 goes, yeah, that's a pretty clear indicator of whether you understand the first thing about Devo.


I don't know much about Devo. It's not that I don't like them; I just never really got into them. I've enjoyed what I've heard, but not enough to make me want to really learn a lot more. Ultimately my opinion of them isn't really strong one way or the other (though I enjoy Mark's movie scores).

What DecemberBoy and SansPoint are saying, though, makes me feel sort of like I'm being fucked with to some degree, and I don't like being fucked with by people who want me to buy albums. Was the point of Devo 2.0 really to lie in wait until the casual fan mutters something about it being stupid, and then secretly laugh and point and say "Ha ha, foolish mortal! You are the unwitting victim of a postmodern prank that achieves perfect irony by not being ironic at all! If only you had more closely followed the master strokes of our satirical subtext for the past few decades, you would not be standing there with such hilarious egg on your face! Ha ha!"

I dunno, maybe I'm wrong here, or maybe if I were a big Devo fan I'd find it all wonderfully droll, or maybe if I looked into it more I'd get it and laugh. But speaking as a relatively with-it guy who has to deal with the fact that there's just too much good music out there and too little time, I kind of just want to shrug and go back to my Springsteen and REM.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:40 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is cool, I have moderately-heighted hopes for it.

Finally caught them live last year after many years of misses...I understand they've been doing the same greatest hits show for 15 years; and that Bob always does that string-snapping routine in Mr. DNA at exactly the same time, but they were just awesome. It could have been a total clock-punch of a show for them but those songs were just so alive, and they were totally honed pro performers, and it was a joy to see.

I pretty much disagree that their post-Oh No! material has any real merit, but I think they deserve canonization for everything up to that point. I love that, for all their genuine subversiveness and ideological thrust, they always just wrote great songs first and foremost.
posted by anazgnos at 12:57 AM on April 9, 2009


They seemed to have no impact outside of the US.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 1:10 AM on April 9, 2009


Did you know that Devo was in Heavy Metal? That's more than a quarter century ago. They're like Sinatra or something.
posted by telstar at 2:35 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


They seemed to have no impact outside of the US.

Their DEV-O Live EP was number one for three weeks in Australia in 1981, and 'Whip It' reached #3 in Canada (compared with #14 in the US).
posted by rory at 3:17 AM on April 9, 2009


There was an interesting interview with them on Studio 360 last weekend. They were at Kent State when the National Guard fired on the students and that event helped shape their politics and approach to music.
posted by caddis at 3:27 AM on April 9, 2009


I think it's okay to be angry at Devo for Devo 2.0
After all, love without anger isn't love at all.
posted by brevator at 4:19 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've never listened to Devo for the music.

Then what DEVO sounds do you listen to? Do they release audio books now?
posted by pracowity at 4:36 AM on April 9, 2009


They seemed to have no impact outside of the US.
The DVD Devo - Live In The Land Of The Rising Sun. And meet the Polysics.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 5:07 AM on April 9, 2009


hifiparasol What DecemberBoy and SansPoint are saying, though, makes me feel sort of like I'm being fucked with to some degree, and I don't like being fucked with by people who want me to buy albums. Was the point of Devo 2.0 really to lie in wait until the casual fan mutters something about it being stupid, and then secretly laugh and point and say "Ha ha, foolish mortal! You are the unwitting victim of a postmodern prank that achieves perfect irony by not being ironic at all! If only you had more closely followed the master strokes of our satirical subtext for the past few decades, you would not be standing there with such hilarious egg on your face! Ha ha!"

I can see how you'd get that, but that's not the intended reaction. I'm sure your far from alone. As MeFi's resident DEVO Evangelist, though, let me at least try to set you right.

The idea is not to be sinister and laugh, specifically, at the cluelessness of the individual, but rather to laugh at the system that turns the artist into a product, and yet (at the time DEVO was getting started, and this is still accurate to some degree now) provides the only real way for said artist to get their work into the public consciousness. This system denies a certain creative freedom to these artists in order to recoup the investment. As way of example, once "Whip It" came out, Warner Bros. hovered over DEVO claiming "You can do anything you want... just make sure there's another 'Whip It' on there." Artistic freedom is contracted in the interest of money. If that's not a situation deserving of satire, what is?
posted by SansPoint at 6:12 AM on April 9, 2009


I was surprised to see Mothersbaugh in the likes of this on TV while visiting my brother and his toddler. The rest of that show is pretty weird too.
posted by exogenous at 6:23 AM on April 9, 2009


I was surprised to see Mothersbaugh in the likes of this on TV
The Aquabats, a major creative force behind Yo Gabba Gabba, are big Devo fans. They did a very strange, flamenco-ey sounding cover of Love Without Anger. And the lyrics to Playdough state:
GI Joe was an action man
Shaggy drove the mystery van
Devo was my favorite band
Take me back to my happy land
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 6:32 AM on April 9, 2009


In Ancient Rome
There was a poem
About a Devo
Ver. 2.0
They were like KidzBop
Played Whip It non-stop
If you hate on them
Then you don't get it.

Freedom of choice!
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Devo's postmodern prank was releasing their own Muzak versions of their songs I ordered Thor Muzak cassettes in 1982 (along with one of those hats). Life was good.
posted by LarryC at 7:26 AM on April 9, 2009


Whee! Maybe I can take SmoothNoodleMaps out of my car's CD player for a bit.

Now when do these songs come to Rock Band/Guitar Hero as DLC?
posted by subbes at 7:29 AM on April 9, 2009


We went and saw them in Manchester in 2007, and aside from being so goddamned awesome it hurt, it was a wonderfully surreal experience, with hipsters jostling for space against 40-something rowdy dads who were dressed as if it was a football match (right down to having "Devo" written on their heads in black marker).

I actually think they work better as a concept now, the New Traditionalists, the beautiful mutants, the aging granddads screaming "are we not men"... It just seems right.

I'm going to see them again in May, where they are going to play Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo in its entirety.

Oh hells yes.
posted by Katemonkey at 7:33 AM on April 9, 2009


"As far as Devo 2.0 goes, yeah, that's a pretty clear indicator of whether you understand the first thing about Devo. Free clue: they don't fit into your indie/punk orthodoxy, never did, and exist in part to subvert it."

Oh my fucking God, you pretentious twat. That's the sort of shit that sounds great to your dormmate but should never be spoken aloud in the outside world.

Yeah, they're sure subvertin' that orthodoxy all right. That aging New Wave band sure taught me something I couldn't learn from Menudo.

The problem with Devo is that their satire's rote by now and the music is boring. In order for them to be subverting mainstream ideals, they have to be mainstream, and they're really not. Which leaves them what, subverting the expectations of the fans that are left? How best to do that? I dunno, claim to be subversive when you're really just crap and have rabid partisans spew condescending defenses on the internet?

Way to go, Spud.
posted by klangklangston at 8:09 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Q: Are we not men?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:29 AM on April 9, 2009


WWDD?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:39 AM on April 9, 2009


All I can say is, my band is playing at the Wachovia Center in Philly on 4/15 before Fleetwood Mac. I plan on leaving after our sets. I could get in for free to see FM but I'd rather pay to see Devo.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:05 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


klangklangston The problem with Devo is that their satire's rote by now and the music is boring. In order for them to be subverting mainstream ideals, they have to be mainstream, and they're really not. Which leaves them what, subverting the expectations of the fans that are left? How best to do that? I dunno, claim to be subversive when you're really just crap and have rabid partisans spew condescending defenses on the internet?

To repeat the interview quote from earlier in the thread: "We've never tried to be obscure, we've never tried to be commercial... We're very honest about our position in the culture... DEVO takes into account that a band is just an act on a record label, working for a company... and works within that reality, being quite honest and upfront about it, using it as an aesthetic..."

Your claim that someone must be mainstream to effectively criticise the mainstream is, on the face of it, absurd. If the mainstream values conformity and adherence to certain systems, anyone who rails against that orthodoxy is, by definition, unable to become mainstream. How many other groups satirize not only the society they are a part of, their role within it, their own work, and the nature of the beast that allows them to deliver it to the world? Last I checked, it's not many, and the few that do take a fair number of cues, whether consciously or subconsciouly from DEVO.

You may not like DEVO's music, or agree with their stance. That's fair. To put down the entire concept and subversion as a while as "rote", and questioning the ability of a non-mainstream artist to engage in subversion is disingenuous at best, and insulting at worst to any artist that exists outside of the mainstream.
posted by SansPoint at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's been with the world
And I’m tired of the soup du jour
He's been with the world
I wanna end this prophylactic tour

Afraid nobody around here
Comprehends my potato
Yes, I’m just a spudboy
Looking for that real tomato

Smart patrol, nowhere to go
Suburban robots that monitor reality
Common stock, we work around the clock
We shove the poles in the holes
posted by stenseng at 9:14 AM on April 9, 2009


"Your claim that someone must be mainstream to effectively criticise the mainstream is, on the face of it, absurd."

Bzzt. Wrong. Not to criticize, but to subvert.

The answer to the line "DEVO takes into account that a band is just an act on a record label, working for a company... and works within that reality, being quite honest and upfront about it, using it as an aesthetic..." is "So what?" Plenty of other bands do too, and have both before and after DEVO. Is their continued "criticism" effective?

"How many other groups satirize not only the society they are a part of, their role within it, their own work, and the nature of the beast that allows them to deliver it to the world?"

Um, fucking gobs of them. The Who Sell Out. Not only that, satire and irony aren't the aegis of Zeus, an impenetrable wall that protects an artist from all criticism. Yeah, I get that their later work is, like, totally riffing on how music is packaged and made. But since I already know all that, what else ya got for me?

Negativland and Evolution Control Committee are great in theory too, but just like DEVO, you don't need to be a completist and it's asinine to hold that all their work has equal value.
posted by klangklangston at 10:39 AM on April 9, 2009


klangklangston Bzzt. Wrong. Not to criticize, but to subvert.
And working the DEVO conceptual framework into commercials and kids music, isn't subverting from within? Any appearance by DEVO in any form of mainstream media, whether a song on a film soundtrack or a re-recording of an older song with sanitized lyrics and preteen kids on vocals works towards getting that mindshare. If one person out of 1000 picks up on the reference, and picks up a record and gets the message, it's still a victory.

Um, fucking gobs of them. The Who Sell Out. Not only that, satire and irony aren't the aegis of Zeus, an impenetrable wall that protects an artist from all criticism.
The Who Sell Out is a great record, but did they base an entire career on that sort of conceptual framework? Not so much. I'm not trying to protect DEVO from criticism. I just think your particular critique is off base.

Yeah, I get that their later work is, like, totally riffing on how music is packaged and made. But since I already know all that, what else ya got for me?
This is why I think your critique is off base. Riffing on how music is packaged and made is far from the *only* motivation, nor is it a major one. One project out of many in which they let kids sing sanitized versions of their canon is as much DEVO's aegis as Negativland's recent embrace of Evangelical Atheism is to theirs. It's one facet of a larger whole, which in DEVO's case to poke at the foibles of human society, point out the hypocracy and stupidity involved, and revel in it as material for art and humor.
posted by SansPoint at 11:16 AM on April 9, 2009


If that's not a situation deserving of satire, what is?

Well, yeah, certainly it's deserving of satire. Moreso, it's demanding of satire.

But the feeling I get here -- and I don't want to single Devo out, since I get this feeling from other bands as well (namely Nirvana, who I love) -- is that it gets sort confusing as to who the joke is on, and there's a very real possibility that the joke is on me, the guy who just shelled out twenty bucks for a CD. You say that the point is not to make fun of the individual, and I believe you, but you shouldn't need to tell me that. I understand that satire can be more rewarding when it's a little more challenging -- but I consider myself a smart guy, and when the only way I know that something even is satire is when some kindhearted fan explains it to me... well, again, I feel fucked with, even if I'm not the target of the joke.

Think of it this way -- caddis mentioned upthread that Devo was at KSU when the shit went down in 1970. They did a cover of CSNY's "Ohio" on this album. If so much of their career trajectory is satirical, what am I supposed to think of that? Is there a Devo User's Guide somewhere that'll explain to me how deep the satire goes? Am I expected to just understand all the jokes on my own, much less when they're joking and when they're not? And am I stupid for not getting it? Good satire doesn't have to smack you over the head, but it does have to be internally consistent. It also has to be accessible to the new user in a way that invites further participation.

You're all thinking: "Christ, hifi, over-fucking-think much?" But the point is that if the everyday dude even starts thinking about this, s/he gets winds up stuck in a loop, and eventually just wants to say "Fuck it, I'm gonna listen to some Elvis Costello or something."
posted by hifiparasol at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2009


hifiparasol If so much of their career trajectory is satirical, what am I supposed to think of that? Is there a Devo User's Guide somewhere that'll explain to me how deep the satire goes? Am I expected to just understand all the jokes on my own, much less when they're joking and when they're not? And am I stupid for not getting it? Good satire doesn't have to smack you over the head, but it does have to be internally consistent. It also has to be accessible to the new user in a way that invites further participation.

The joke is on you. The joke is on me. Everyone is the subject of the joke. Even DEVO themselves. What I suppose the difference is, is that those who "get it" are willing to laugh not only at others, but at themselves. Face it, we all act like overgrown brain-eating apes sometimes. Just some more than others.

While DEVO is satirical, there is also a sincerity and an urgency to the message. It's not a good thing that humanity is becoming stupid. It's not a good thing that the world's falling apart. Devolution as a concept is the joke. Man evolving from brain-eating apes, etc. It's all based on a serious underpinning, as embodied in the KSU shootings. In the DEVO philosophy, there's three ways you can deal with the situation: ignore it, embrace it, or laugh at it. DEVO takes the third option.
posted by SansPoint at 12:00 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


hifiparasol: "But the point is that if the everyday dude even starts thinking about this, s/he gets winds up stuck in a loop, and eventually just wants to say "Fuck it, I'm gonna listen to some Elvis Costello or something.""

Caught in a trap and you can’t walk out
It’s in your mind so you can’t walk out
Just when you think you’ve got it beat
It sets you up and knocks you down
Try to blow it off or trade it in
And you’ll wind up in the lost and found
And then you’re stuck
Stuck in a loop again
Well you’re gonna get stuck
Stuck in a loop again
Maybe random maybe a scam
Fate lays waste to the greatest plans
That’s life
Talk about karma moan about sin
Just don’t get stuck in that loop again
’cause that’s life
posted by subbes at 12:36 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


You guys realize your calling each other names over Devo? It it really that important?
posted by tkchrist at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Every time Mark Mothersbaugh comes on Yo Gabba Gabba to draw an animal, my 2-year-old yells, "NO! No that guy!" and buries his face in my sleeve, but doesn't want me to turn it off.

As do we all. Or something.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:47 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't like being fucked with by people who want me to buy albums.

That's fair, I suppose. But I think part of their point is that anybody who wants you to buy anything is probably fucking with you.
posted by webmutant at 1:48 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


In late '78 or early '79 I and a friend walked into a record store. We were typical rock kids, I think the last album I had purchased was maybe CCR's Greatest Hits. Anyway, we were perusing the bins when a record store employee put Devo's inimitable first album on the PA. As the first couple songs played, I started looking at my friend, and he started looking back at me. Pretty soon it was obvious...we had to get this. So we bought the vinyl copy and took it back to my dorm room and started playing it. And playing it. Pretty soon the whole dorm floor got annoyed and were telling us to turn it down. A few days later, my girlfriend said that while she was around, there would be no playing that record. My favorite song was "Mongoloid", which I learned to sing and play on the guitar. One night in a European city, me and my friends were messing around with our guitars in the public square. I started playing "Mongoloid" and the others joined in. Pretty soon a crowd started gathering got quite large. We jammed the song for maybe a half hour and the whole crowd rocked along with us. It was the beginning and end of my performance career.
posted by telstar at 4:32 PM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Then if you got it you don't want it
Seems to be the rule of thumb
posted by bwg at 6:43 PM on April 9, 2009


I was at the the SXSW show. All I can say is, please, if you are a fan, fucking go see them if you get a chance. Brilliant!
posted by theperfectcrime at 11:12 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And, a day later, The music video for "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)" is released.

Fucking amazing.
posted by SansPoint at 2:21 PM on April 10, 2009


Around 1978, '79 I was in an elementary school that was mainstreaming mentally (politically correct word) kids. One of the more disabled kids snuck his older bro's brand spankin' new Devo album to school. Some of the classroom hooligans, myself included, were going to thrash the album so that he would be beaten up by his brother, but somebody put it on one of those crappy little school record players first.

We Loved it! Other kids started bringing music to share and the "Devo kid" ended up being a classroom hero.

That is the extent of my Devo knowledge! Rock it Devo!!
posted by snsranch at 4:00 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mothersbaugh's music for Crash Bandicoot 3 is permanently etched in my brain.
posted by not_on_display at 10:41 PM on April 10, 2009


Hey, not_on_display,...

Q: What do you call it when every movement in a song is a hook, and every hook is pretty damn good?

A: DEVO! er, Mark Mothersbaugh!
posted by snsranch at 2:22 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


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