This week’s Sunday Night Dance Party is fueled by DEVO, specifically the band’s 1978 debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! In my opinion, DEVO is a band that the younger generations (my own included) do not give enough credit. Growing up in the 90s era of compilation albums and VH1 Pop-Up Video, DEVO was often solely recognized for “Whip-It” and those weird red hats, or Mark Mothersbaugh is that guy who made the music for the Rugrats cartoon, but there is much more to uncover with that band, and starting with this album is key.
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! reveals a band giving rock and roll a whole new sound, with hints of punk and electronic styles added to their robotic beats, irregular accents, and syllable-isolating vocals. In fact, after receiving demos of the band, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Robert Fripp, and Brian Eno reaching out for producing privileges with the latter earning the credit. The album starts out with the explosive “Uncontrollable Urge” and “[I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction“, a unique interpretation of The Rolling Stones’ classic; two tracks that showcase the band’s creative style and stamina. My favorite track is “Space Junk“, a two-minute and fifteen second tune that details a young female (and a number of countries) who is fatally hit by falling ‘space junk’ from the sky over an expanded verse of monotone, mostly one and two-syllable lyrics. The guitar solo is well deserving of an “on repeat” listen. “Mongoloid” is another track that secures that unique DEVO sound with its motorik drum beat, synthesizer solos, and robotic guitar lines. Other gems include “Gut Feeling/Slam Your Mammy“, “Jocko Homo” from which the album’s title was derived, and “Praying Hands“.
Even better than the recordings, are the band’s live interpretations of the songs. Nearly every song came with its own choreography which is another huge part of what made and continues to make DEVO a legendary band. I can’t even imagine how strange and innovative this band must have seemed when they first came out. This performance of “Uncontrollable Urge” is a must-see: