DEVO – Hardcore Volume One (Rykodisk) 1990. So it was inevitable that I would eventually post some DEVO. They were a weird Midwestern band who wrote some great songs. Over the years DEVO have gotten dissed more than any other band I can think of. Which is kinda strange…
DEVO were the first “new wave” band I got into. I saw Beautiful World on Night Flight when I was twelve and I loved it. I was enough of a teenager to dig the sarcasm inherent in stating “it’s a beautiful world” while showing images of war, fashion shoots and other bullshit. I was still enough of a kid to think that Booji Boy was funny. Perfect timing. I saved up my allowance and bought the only DEVO record I could find which was 1978′s “Are We Not Men We Are DEVO”….the picture disc no less.
Now, it’s a pretty big leap from Beautiful World to Shrivel Up but I had DEVOlved and was definitely a fan. Then I started meeting other new wave/punk fans and the snide comments began…
Oh, you like DEVO?
I’d like to say I stood up for my favourite band. The band that started it all for me. But alas, I was an insecure 13 year old and I, like everyone else, turned on DEVO. I went out and bought “serious” stuff by The Clash and The Talking Heads. I hated poseurs too!
I think the poseur comments came from the fact that DEVO had scored a big hit with Whip It. Much like Mexican Radio though, Whip It was some pretty subversive stuff for popular audiences. Again I ask, do you think mass audiences could handle something like Whip It or Mexican Radio today?
Regardless, at that time it was very important not to sell out and by courting popular opinion DEVO made the crucial error. Saying you liked DEVO in 1982 was basically like telling everyone you were an idiot…so I kept my DEVO fandom in the closet throughout my adolescence. Especially when I was trying real hard to be punk-n-all.
Sometime during the 1990′s, the spin on DEVO changed and they began to get viewed as a seminal new wave post-punk band….which is what they were/are. Part of this newfound cred came about due to the releases of Hardcore 1 and 2 on Rykodisk. Another part of it came about due to the popularity of grunt rock and its predecessor, grunge.
See, one of the engines behind DEVO-hatred in the 1980′s was this need for some sort of perceived authenticity. The 1980′s were an incredibly fake time full of lots of feel-good nostalgic bullshit. In the 1980′s it became really important to fans of independent music not to be perceived as fake but to be real.
As the era waned we got what we asked for and more. There was “authenticity” in spades with all of those flannel dudes. This DEVOlved into the mid 1990′s grunt rock and y’all-ternative phenomenons which effectively killed popular rock-n-roll music.
Don’t kid yourself. We live in the post-rock era now.
So at some point around 1991 some of us were getting real tired of the same old grungy “authentic” shit and started looking back in our record collections at bands that were more eccentric and offbeat. Ryko releases 2 CD’s of early and unreleased DEVO tracks coincidentally at this exact moment and BAM! DEVO is OK to like again.
Listening to these DEVO tracks now, I can say with hindsight that they are not as great as I had perceived them to be in 1991. There was always this “Revenge of the Nerds” vibe with DEVO and it is most perceptible on these early tracks (Soo Bawls, Buttered Beauties and Ono come to mind). In hindsight, I believe “Are We Not Men” is the DEVO high-water mark.
But some of the tracks on here are amazingly cool and should not be missed by any self-respecting post-punk fan (Midget, Auto Mowdown and Uglatto come to mind). This has been out of print for a long time and is fetchin’ high prices on Amazon. Also check out the DEVO official site. It’s great!