Devo: Through Being Cool

Speaking of the Rolling Stones, here’s a blast from the past that I haven’t been able to chase out of my head for days now, the version of “Satisfaction” cited as one of Mick Jagger’s favorite Stones covers:

It’s hard to believe Devo’s frenetic, herky jerky movements here aren’t a camera trick, but watch live footage from the same era and you realize yes, they really were that tightly wound.

Bless these guys for helping legions of spud children to survive pubescence with some shred of self esteem intact. While I wouldn’t put them in the “What Made Me Weird” category, they certainly helped me feel less awful for being weird. I still have an old Trapper Keeper lying around somewhere with the lyrics of “Through Being Cool” scrawled on it.

Devo’s alliance with the Church of the Subgenius made them cooler in my eyes than any football-throwing Homecoming King could ever hope to be. Their Men Who Make the Music collection of home videos amused the hell out of me back then, but today, some of those skits seem downright prescient, voicing concerns about the sinister manipulations of genetics, food and culture.

Nowadays, the Devo boys are keeping busy. In 2005, bassist Gerald Casale unveiled his “solo” project, Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers (the Evildoers being everybody else in Devo), which has since put out an EP and a full length record including new recordings of obscure Devo tracks.

In 2006, Devo toured the globe, performing to huge crowds. The dubious Disney-produced DEV2.0 program, wherein precocious child actors perform Devo hits with watered down lyrics like It’s a beautiful world for you/I guess me too (ew, ew, ew!!) also premiered in early ’06 with episodes directed by Casale.

Mark Mothersbaugh is a regularly featured guest star on the exceedingly entertaining children’s program Yo Gabba Gabba! and has had several successful gallery shows of his archival photography “mutations” and homemade postcards. There’s apparently a film in production about Devo’s early days, and new studio recordings slated for release in 2008.

And so the Devolution continues.

14 Responses to “Devo: Through Being Cool”

  1. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Have ze same affinity for them as I do ze Talking Heads und They Might Be Giants. Twas nice to see artists celebrating their quirks.

  2. Libby Bulloff Says:

    Jesus christ on a stick, I love that band. I have worn an energy dome hat to the club before. Yes, I am that nerdy.


  3. Daniel Says:

    Devo is the way to start my day. I may have to buy that Devo action figure.

    The Devo 2.0 thing generated a lot of discussion in my circles a while back. I think all of us concluded that, even though they watered Devo down, it is still a great way introduce kids to great music.

  4. Lydia Says:

    Why do I only have one DEVO album? This really must be remedied…

  5. Jason Hembree Says:

    I damn near had a seizure when that Dell commercial came on and they said there would finally be a new album. Thank Bob Dobs. Anyone remember when Mark Mothersbaugh had to go to court over that Burger King Commercial? He backmasked it with messages telling kids not to eat to much sugar, do good in school and exercise. Subversion on the corporates, eh? Are we not men?

  6. Ben Morris Says:

    So fucking great. Devo’s music videos are consistently wonderful (I especially love the one for Peek-a-boo: early CG, laughing devils, punk clowns, oh yes) and their songs equally so.

    Fans of Devo might want to take a look at the Polysics. A japanese band who cite Devo as their primary influence (to the point that a couple of their videos feature an analog of Devo’s General Boy character). Not nearly as awesome as Devo, but certainly entertaining.

    The first of those is more Devo-like, the second however has japanese businessmen lining up to eat creepy singing food.

  7. Tanya Says:

    Also not to be forgotten are:
    Mark Mothersborough’s compositions for Wes Anderson’s movies!
    & the entire “Hardcore Devo: Volume Two” which TOTALLY revolutionized and fucked my brain up when I was 17 and still listening to Dancehall Crashers.

  8. Tanya Says:

    Yes, I cannot spell his name. MOTHERSBAUGH.

  9. James Shearhart Says:

    It may very well be thoroughly useless to the majority of folks herein, but in San Francisco this Saturday is a bit of a celebration of Devo.

  10. Ben Morris Says:

    Today has apparently spontaneously turned into Devo day on the internets. In addition to the post here there was a Devo post on MetaFilter and a Mark Mothersbaugh post on boingboing.

  11. Mer Says:

    James, thanks for that reminder. I’m forwarding that link to my bay area peeps immediately.

    Daniel, good point about DEV2.0. I just loathe Disney so much. It’s unnecessary to pander to children to the degree that they have more recently. (Pixar stuff excluded, of course. And hopefully things will change a bit now because of the corporate shakedown.) Funny sidenote: I think the first Devo song I heard besides “Whip It” was “Jerking Back and Forth” thanks to a hip babysitter. Of course I had no idea it was a masturbation double entendre, I just found it was supremely danceable.

    Tanya, yes! Mark M has that ubiquitous music production company Mutato, it’s fantastic. Anytime I hear electric organ Bossa Nova mixed with crazy Raymond Scott style shizzle in a movie, I’m all “ARE WE NOT MARK?!” I had the most incredible chance meeting with him in my early 20s… remind me to tell you about it when I’m less caffeinated and strapped for time.

  12. Mer Says:

    Oh, man. This is priceless:

  13. Nadya Says:

    Wow, I had no idea about the Devo-Subgenius connection. FTW!

  14. Pat Says:

    There’s joy to be had digging up old Night Flight clips, where I first learned of DEVO and BoB.

    Love that Bob:

    “It’s the human condition. It’s things falling apart. It’s fat ladies in double-knit jumpsuits beating their kids in Krogers.”