Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Even the title of Devo's debut album shows that this band has a lot of strangeness to unpack. A New Wave quintet from Akron, Ohio, Devo dresses in industrial jumpsuits with goggles and plastic flowerpot helmets on their heads. Stay with me.
The band's main argument and name is based on the idea that human civilization has reached its peak and is actually devolving. I'll let you be the judge of that claim, but I still highly encourage you to check out this incredibly rocking, highly danceable album.
The opening track, "Uncontrollable Urge," starts off with frontman Mark Mothersbaugh spitting "yeahs" from his mouth as if they were a combination of Pop Rocks and Coke. This makes a lot of sense due to the uncontrollable nature he is experiencing. A solid introduction, it cements the bands catchiness and energetic nature in only a couple of minutes.
Things really get cooking when the percussion kicks in for the next song, "I Can't Get No (Satisfaction)." Though it sounds like a drum machine built from junkyard pieces, it is actually the organic work of Alan Myers.
The Rolling Stones classic is beautifully warped and redefined by our merry band of misfits. Unlike pretty Mick Jagger, Mothersbaugh actually sounds like and looks like someone who would actually have a bit of trouble getting satisfaction. You can see the herky-jerky percussive nature of the band in the video at the bottom.
Another favorite of mine is "Space Junk," about orbiting debris falling to Earth, actually starts with sweet and gentle guitar notes before it starts to list all of the countries and states being hit by the titular subject. "Space Junk" is still incredibly relevant and a source of modern anxiety, as one sees in the recent film Gravity. It is also a song that you can still shake to after three decades, which is saying a lot.
In a world where nerd culture is a point of pride, where The Big Bang Theory gets massive ratings and Emmy awards, you have to give some credit to Devo for introducing listeners to some pretty low down and dirty nerdiness.