28 August 2013

28th August - Devo's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Artist – Album: Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
Released:  28th August 1978
Sounds Like: New wave for robots

I first came across Mark Mothersbaugh, the front man of Devo, when I was but a rugrat. Mothersbaugh, you see, was the composer of the theme tune to nineties cartoon Rugrats, a melody so simple and infectious that everybody in my high school music class would play it incessantly on the keyboard, like ‘Chopsticks’ for the 21st Century. Like Max Fischer in Rushmore, I did pretty well all round in high school (Ok, ok, I never saved Latin or wrote a hit play), and Mothersbaugh supported me all the way: he provided the soundtrack to a host of Wes Anderson films, including the Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and, indeed, Rushmore. Finally, in university, I discovered Devo, and three of their best songs – the emphatic novelty hit ‘Whip It’, the genius deconstruction of the Rolling Stones’ classic ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and the relentless, primitive ‘Mongoloid’.

Are We Not Men… does not contain their biggest hit, but those latter two tracks are here in all their mechanical wonder. Alongside them, is a selection of the jerkiest, catchiest songs new wave ever saw. Devo sound like a mix between Talking Heads and Kraftwerk, with Mothersbaugh yelping, stuttering and caterwauling like David Byrne having a panic attack, behind a mathematically designed danceable backing track. As well as the aforementioned duo (on ‘Satisfaction’, by the way, they come across as even more frustrated and desperate than in Jagger’s legendary performance), the bursting opener ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, the Johnny B. Goode referencing ‘Come Back Jonee’ and the delightful ‘Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’) are gems. The centrepiece is ‘Jocko Homo’ , a track borne from their philosophy of the “devolution of man” and contains the persistent, insane call and response “Are we not men? We are Devo”, which probably stands as the litmus test as to whether you think these are art rock messiahs or just very naughty boys.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Uncontrollable Urge – 3:09
2.       (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – 2:40
3.       Praying Hands – 2:47
4.       Space Junk – 2:14
5.       Mongoloid – 3:44
6.       Jocko Homo – 3:40
7.       Too Much Paranoias – 1:57
8.       Gut Feeling / (Slap Your Mammy) – 4:54
9.       Come Back Jonee – 3:47
10.   Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’) – 2:40
11.   Shrivel-Up – 3:05

Listen to ‘Uncontrollable Urge’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8UcpmUQkNU

Also released on 28th August:
1973: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On

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