on 26 June 2001
I inherited this record from my mum. I could never understand why she had it, but I was so glad she did. It is difficult to describe this, but it makes me have crazy discos in my room & it makes me smile & it makes me try to sing a long. It is also difficult to describe their sound - it is a kind of late 70's sound, with electronic bits, & kind of punky sounds & this amazing crazy voice (I can't think of any comparisons really, its not really anything like jello biafra, but it has that certain crazy quality that jello has) & great sing-a-long parts. Umm, satisfaction is a cover of the rolling stones song, can't pick a favourite, jocko homo is great cos you can sing along & it has so much energy, gut feeling too though, i can't decide:) I love them all.
You will love this too. You will listen to it on your own & try to make up dance routines. You will feel drawn to other people who like it. Infact if you have it, I want to be your friend. This is a special album, by a very special band. These words have not done devo justice.
Devo are an awe-inspiringly wonderful band, whose early work in particular is worthy of the highest praise. Funny, silly and serious all at the same time, "Are we not men..." is the band's classic debut; produced by Brian Eno, it contains much of their finest work including "uncontrollable urge" and "Jocko Homo".
The importance of Devo cannot be understated, with bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Melt Banana all having covered their material. Quirky, catchy, but still musically excellent, there is no better CD release of a Devo album available, as it comes packaged with an impressive live EP showing that they were a great live band too. Particularly impressive on the live section is the freedom of choice opener, which is a smile-inducing instrumental based on a later track.
If you enjoy this, then I recommend the albums "Freedom of Choice" and "Duty Now for the Future," as well as anything by The Residents.
It may be hard to believe now, but 'Are We Not Men?' was one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the late 1970s. Prior to their debut, Devo had impressed with their ingeniously rhythmic cover of 'Satisfaction.' Did it live up to the hype? Just about. The album is a breathless series of quickfire songs that bear no relation to anything else, though they fit into the general label of 'new wave,' and work well as a whole while being distinct from each other.
'Uncontrollable Urge' takes an insistent, Zeppelinesque riff as the background to Mark Mothersbaugh's disturbing ramblings. After 'Satisfaction' comes 'Praying Mantis,' a Hokey Cokeyish song about hands ('well, your right hand's diddling'). The offbeat subjects continue, Devo tackling subjects that no one else would think of tackling: 'Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid, and he was as happy as you and me.' The unfathomable philosophy of the title emerges in 'Jocko Homo.' Somehow, Devo create a brooding aura out of screwball rock music. Theirs is a fractured version of popular music. They can rock a bit too; 'Come Back Jonee' is a jaunty take on Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode character, though Berry would never have envisioned it like Devo play it. Meanwhile, 'Gut Feeling' has a great, extended guitar intro, and 'Shrivel Up' provides a marvellous climax.
The live tracks and three bonus studio items are all creditable but not in the same league as 'Are We Not Men?' Interest in Devo subsided quickly after their debut. Its release on different coloured vinyls plus the band's insistence on weird stage clothing smacked of gimmickry and there was always an inescapable feeling that Devo were contriving their distance from other bands and trying to baffle the listener with nonsense dressed up as science. Nevertheless, that debut album is a great achievement.
on 16 July 2012
Are We Not Men is our current classic album of the month at our music club so, having listened to it to rate and review at our next meeting, I thought I'd post a review here. I do remember Devo at the time (in the late 70s) and although I quite liked them, it wasn't enough to buy any of their stuff (other than one sole 45, Be Stiff). I am pleased, therefore, to put that right because I will be buying this album. Devo were the first in the new wave of American punk arriving in the wake of the big five of Patti Smith, The Ramones, Television, Blondie and the Talking Heads. They would prove to be equally as inspirational with their artfully rhythmic, jerky style of punk pop music. On this side of the Atlantic, one can imagine a young Robert Smith of the Cure or Adam Ant taking notes because they both took something from Are We Not Men, whether it be stylistically or sonically. Words of praise must go to Brian Eno who tackled the punk genre for the first time and he did a superb job evincing wonderful guitar and synth sounds which lifts the already fine source material to new heights. Are We Not Men is a post punk classic. 9 out of 10.
It's interesting how the hippy dream fell apart - in West Germany you had a band like Can who created their own inner space world, while peers joined the Baader-Meinhof gang. In the US it was similar, the key example of such a gang being the SLA - who were mostly college-educated students in revolt. The shootings by the US National Guard of four students protesting against Nixon's bombing of Cambodia at Kent State university Ohio (detailed in C,S,N&Y's 'Ohio')offered a similar route - resort to terrorism and violence, or respond through art. Devo's Gerald Casale was personally friends with two of the murdered students - so this personal connection and the general zeitgeist fed into what Devo became. Like Pere Ubu and Talking Heads, they started out as a much darker band than their later material suggests - the image Devo have is seen as quite cartoon and they seemed remembered for their cover of 'Satisfaction' & the New Wave hit 'Whip It' - kind of proto-Electric Six!
'Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo' followed singles 'Satisfaction' & 'Jocko Homo/Mongoloid' on their own Booji Bay label. A buzz developed around the band, who were courted & feted by David Bowie, Richard Branson, Brian Eno & Neil Young - eventually recording this LP with Eno in Cologne (where Eno had been working with Cluster & Harmonia). Devo held onto their earlier sound, rather than let Eno contribute that much - so it's more a 'More Songs About Buildings & Food' than a 'Remain in Light.' 'Q...' is a definite post-punk classic and one to rank alongside the Eno-Heads trilogy, Pere Ubu's 'Dub Housing' & 'The Modern Dance', The Modern Lovers debut, Ultravox's Eno-produced debut & Wire's 'Pink Flag.'
The quirky image of Devo, seen as a comic outfit like the B52s overlooks the lyrical factor - 'Praying Hands' might sound like a choreographic number, but it is in fact a nod to the rise of the Christian right and Preacher-obedience (preceding 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts', 'Sluggin' for Jesus' & 'Jesus Loves Amerika'). Sex features heavily on the tracks 'Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin'), 'Uncontrollabe Urge','Penetration in the Centrefold' & the live single-entendre 'Be Stiff.' The centre of the album remains the sequence that opens with 'Mongoloid' (has quite a New York Dolls feature, though with creepy detail "Mongoloid was a mongoloid/Happy as you & me...and he wore a hat/and he had a job...") - which features some Eno-inspired keyboards. After the New Wave pop of 'Whip It' (featured in a fine live version here), the first real Devo-track I heard was 'Jocko Homo' - on a TV programme I swore I saw one morning on Open University/BBC education which played this between contributions from Martin Amis, JG Ballard & Paul Morley (perhaps I hallucinated it?). The wonderful metronomic synth noise is fantastic ("Are we not men?"-"We are Devo")while the vocals aren't that far away from XTC's Andy Partridge. 'Too Much Paranoias' sounds like a demented relative of Captain Beefheart and is followed by the fantastic 'Gut Feeling' which has a piano-style similar to the work of Magazine's Dave Formula (I thought a little of 'Definitive Gaze').
This cd-reissue of Devo's debut is a fantastic document and their best work - the bonus tracks and live e.p. are great extras too. 'Duty Now for the Future' is almost as good and 'Freedom of Choice' isn't bad for a pop album...a record every home should have anyway. & now there's a Kids version of Devo! Q. Are We Not Children A. We are Devo. !!
on 17 November 2006
I'd heard of Devo since way back when and even own a copy of the Satisfaction single (inherited from my brother) but had never really gotten into them or even taken the trouble to buy one of their albums. But reading in his autobiography that Hugh Cornwell (of Stranglers fame) was a mate of Mark Mothersbaugh and a fan of Devo, I thought I'd check them out for any cross Stranglers/Devo influences. Well, the Stranglers weren't too much in evidence (or this set of Devo in the Stranglers, with exception perhaps of 'Shrivel Up' which is a little Strangler-esque and a similar guitar style to Cornwell) but take a listen and you can hear the likes of early Adam and the Ants (Dirk wears White Sox), Hazel O'Connor and coming right up to date, I'm pretty sure there is some Devo in Fraz Ferdinand too.
This is a great album and good value considering the solid content. It's a bit quirky in places but that was Devo and I'm glad I found them at last.
on 14 June 2009
Having been fairly tragically unaware of DEVO's output prior to seeing them at ATP their performance of the weekend there invoked me to erradicate my mistake and get a few albums, and one can do no worse with DEVO than starting with this great value two album CD that contains their most renowned body of work along with all their classics playeed live. A great value CD from one of the best Live band's I've had the pleasure of seeing.
I was watching a documentary recently and they used the intros to various Devo tracks from Q: Are We Not Men?... and I was reminded what a fantastic album this was. I bought it in the 70s and saw them live at the Edinburgh Odeon in 1978. That had such a fantastic blend of music and image that I was always surprised they weren't so much bigger. The music stands-up fantastically well; it was always too musical to be punk, and listening to it again, it is clearly of forerunner of much of the new wave scene that was to follow. A great band and this was their best album.
Bowie, Pop and Eno tustling to be the first to release the album highlights no greater praise - either now or the late 70's. Devo questioned the whole notion of linear progression; where new is best. Progression= dreamt by marketing men to keep the treadmill traveling faster and faster means more and more is thrown into the netherworld.
This album is stuck there in the 70's graveyard along with Rubettes, Toto, Styx, Nana Maskouri. Time to cut through the jungle to El Dorado and liberate these gems from tasteless police. Musical gold hiding in the long grass of the past, just needs a little bit of spit and polish and then popped back into the slot.
Jerk, rhythm, flowerpot men singing with the intensity of androids trying to recover their humanity after being showed clips of industrial promo blips; act like a human! Culture was their enemy on this the first, until the voice of mammon licked its lips and sucked hard on these Devo popsters, is the best. Then their clothes and ideas blew off one by one and they became bigger and bigger producing less and less.
The ultimate trade off in the rawk substrata. For every David Bowie skitting along the rim of excess there are 1000 blands plundered and shunted into artistic dead ends by record companies based on short term profit and long term greed.
Jocko Homo the jerk, yank and twitch, the mother of all electro moves - played as solid as granite rock. Satisfaction becomes a bare anti purchaser rant, signalling a mutiny in this stripped austere gibbering version, less honky tonk with more German iciness, eerie.
Praying Hands is satire on belief in the big one. WE ARE DEVO the chant of the mob surrendering before greater forces of control. Individuality and identity sloughed off as just another purchase from the shop. Homogenity is the new demand and willingly granted by the individual as they want to be part of something bigger; a pre defined homogenous movement. Devo are satirising the mentality ironist fans not promulgating. A world of literality entails the joke becomes submerged.
The huddling herd pressed ever tighter together, having a twofold effect for Devo - firstly they jettisoned the dire warnings. Secondly they mistook irony for their self affirmation propelling Devo as saviours of their surreal void worlds. Like Gang of Four and other ironic surveyors they fitted into the zeitgeist of early America; sterile, grass mulching, wide eyed vindictive, totally devoid of black influence and thinking of itself as the future.
You would have had to have tried very hard to assume this interpretation of the ironic spuds but somehow the USA clasped the proto art revolutionaries to their collective bosoms and chests. Devo wriggled, squirmed and eventually jettisoned their pole position into the world beyond rock.
This record was on a par with Pere Ubu, Residents, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads as a vision of the future. It needs to be saved from neglect and placed alongside Suicide and Kraftwerk as a prince to the Kings and Emperors of a journey back to the future.
on 8 September 2008
First Devo album and live ep plus a few b-sides on one disc.
The music is great (although not the best of this set from Virgin Records) but the packaging is just plain bad, it has none of the charisma of the original releases and on a few songs even spells tracks wrong!
If you get all 3 of these releases you get 6 albums, and thats great for the price, but if you can, get either the original vinyls or more devo-ted re-releases. This simply feels like a way for Virgin to cash in on them which is sad.
Worth getting for the music alone, but the packaging is worth only one star out of five.