Thursday, May 29, 2008

Q: Are We Not Men?

Sorry for my lack of quality posting lately. Things have been swamped. But to make up for it, I pose to you fine folk an honest question:

DEVO: Ahead of their time geniuses or silly gimmick?

Surely the answer will be somewhere in between, but I have a very hard time pinning down exactly where. Once you move past “Whip It” (which is one of those 80s songs so entrenched in my head and wrapped up with nostalgia that I can’t even begin to objectively figure out if it’s good or not) and move into their cannon you’ve got some really great stuff. “Beautiful World” is fantastic (despite being a bit ruined by excessive use in commercials) as are their covers of “Satisfaction” and (to a lesser extent) “Working in a Coal Mine”. But the real gem to me is “Girl U Want”, a fantastic, driving song with a typically bizarre video clip to accompany it:

Come on, that rules.

But there’s also stuff that I just can’t get behind as being brilliant. I could post some late period stuff here but that’s hardly fair – to evaluate them we really should focus on their prime. But that prime includes “Jocko Homo”, which, I think, kind of sucks:

Of course, watching that you realize that, music aside, there’s something pretty amazing going on here. I mean, it may not always work, but clearly these guys are going for something. This is only reinforced by the fact that this is from 1978, which is way early for music like this. But all that doesn’t change that I just plain don’t like listening to that song.

So I don’t know. They’re a band I *want* to love, but sometimes the quality of music gets in the way of that love. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and in closing, I present the Devo Corporate Anthem, an oddly sublime little piece for your enjoyment:

1 comment:

Eric said...

VC-- I've been meaning to give this post more attention but haven't yet had time. I've got Devo's first album, which I bought when I was obsessed with Brian Eno's production work from that period. I like that record a lot (even Jocko Homo) and have been tentatively interested in exploring further-- esp because I like Mark Mothersbaugh's soundtrack work for Wes Anderson.