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Devo

One of new wave's most innovative and (for a time) successful bands, Devo was also perhaps one of its most misunderstood. Formed in Akron, Ohio, in 1972 by Kent State art students Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo took its name from their concept of "de-evolution" -- the idea that instead of evolving, mankind has actually regressed, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society. Their music echoed this view of society as rigid, repressive, and mechanical, with appropriate touches -- jerky, robotic rhythms; an obsession with technology and electronics (the group was among the first non-prog rock bands to make the synthesizer a core element); often atonal melodies and chord progressions -- all of which were filtered through the perspectives of geeky misfits. Devo became a cult sensation, helped in part by their concurrent emphasis on highly stylized visuals, and briefly broke through to the mainstream with the smash single "Whip It," whose accompanying video was made a staple by the fledgling MTV network. Sometimes resembling a less forbidding version of the Residents, Devo's simple, basic electronic pop sound proved very influential, but it was also somewhat limited, and as other bands began expanding on the group's ideas, Devo seemed unable to keep pace. After a series of largely uninteresting albums, the band called it quits early in the '90s, and Casale and Mothersbaugh concentrated on other projects.

Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh both attended art school at Kent State University at the outset of the '70s. With friend Bob Lewis, who joined an early version of Devo and later became their manager, the theory of de-evolution was developed with the aid of a book entitled The Beginning Was the End: Knowledge Can Be Eaten, which held that mankind had evolved from mutant, brain-eating apes. The trio adapted the theory to fit their view of American society as a rigid, dichotomized instrument of repression which ensured that its members behaved like clones, marching through life with mechanical, assembly-line precision and no tolerance for ambiguity. The whole concept was treated as an elaborate joke until Casale witnessed the infamous National Guard killings of student protesters at the university; suddenly there seemed to be a legitimate point to be made. The first incarnation of Devo was formed in earnest in 1972, with Casale (bass), Mark Mothersbaugh (vocals), and Mark's brothers Bob (lead guitar) and Jim, who played homemade electronic drums. Jerry's brother Bob joined as an additional guitarist, and Jim left the band to be replaced by Alan Myers. The group honed its sound and approach for several years (a period chronicled on Rykodisc's Hardcore compilations of home recordings), releasing a few singles on its own Booji Boy label and inventing more bizarre concepts: Mothersbaugh dressed in a baby-faced mask as Booji Boy (pronounced "boogie boy"), a symbol of infantile regression; there were recurring images of the potato as a lowly vegetable without individuality; the band's costumes presented them as identical clones with processed hair; and all sorts of sonic experiments were performed on records, using real and homemade synthesizers as well as toys, space heaters, toasters, and other objects. Devo's big break came with its score for the short film The Truth About De-Evolution, which won a prize at the 1976 Ann Arbor Film Festival; when the film was seen by David Bowie and Iggy Pop, they were impressed enough to secure the group a contract with Warner Bros.

Recorded under the auspices of pioneering producer Brian Eno, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was seen as a call to arms by some and became an underground hit. Others found Devo's sound, imagery, and material threatening; Rolling Stone, for example, called the group fascists. But such criticism missed the point: Devo dramatized conformity, emotional repression, and dehumanization in order to attack them, not to pay tribute to them.

While 1979's Duty Now for the Future was another strong effort, the band broke through to the mainstream with 1980's Freedom of Choice, which contained the gold-selling single "Whip It" and represented a peak in their sometimes erratic songwriting. The video for "Whip It" became an MTV smash, juxtaposing the band's low-budget futuristic look against a down-home farm setting and hints of S&M. However, Devo's commercial success proved to be short-lived. 1981's New Traditionalists was darker and more serious, not what the public wanted from a band widely perceived as a novelty act, and Devo somehow seemed to be running out of new ideas. Problems plagued the band as well: Bob Lewis successfully sued for theft of intellectual property after a tape of Mothersbaugh was found acknowledging Lewis' role in creating de-evolution philosophy, and the sessions for 1982's Oh, No! It's Devo were marred by an ill-considered attempt to use poetry written by would-be Ronald Reagan assassin John Hinckley, Jr. as lyrical material.

As the '80s wore on, Devo found itself relegated to cult status and critical indifference, not at all helped by the lower quality of albums like 1984's Shout and 1988's Total Devo. With the band's shift toward electronic drums, Alan Myers departed in 1986, to be replaced by ex-Sparks and Gleaming Spires drummer David Kendrick. Devo recorded another album of new material, Smooth Noodle Maps, in 1990, after which its members began to concentrate on other projects. Mark Mothersbaugh moved into composing for commercials and soundtracks, writing theme music for MTV's Liquid Television, Nickelodeon's Rugrats, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and the Jonathan Winters sitcom Davis Rules. He also played keyboards with the Rolling Stones, programmed synthesizers for Sheena Easton, and sang backup with Debbie Harry. Buoyed by this success, Mothersbaugh opened a profitable production company called Mutato Muzika, which employed his fellow Devo bandmates. Jerry Casale, meanwhile, who directed most of the band's videos, directed video clips for the Foo Fighters' "I'll Stick Around" and Soundgarden's "Blow Up the Outside World." No reunions were expected, but as Devo's legend grew and other bands acknowledged their influence (Nirvana covered "Turnaround," while "Girl U Want" has been recorded by Soundgarden, Superchunk, and even Robert Palmer), their minimalistic electro-pop was finally given new exposure on six dates of the 1996 Lollapalooza tour, to enthusiastic fan response.

The following year, Devo released a CD-ROM game (The Adventures of the Smart Patrol) and accompanying music soundtrack, in addition to playing selected dates on the Lollapalooza tour. 2000 saw the release of a pair of double-disc Devo anthologies: the first was the half-hits/half-rarities Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology (on Rhino), while the second was the limited-edition mail-order release Recombo DNA (on Rhino's Handmade label), the latter of which was comprised solely of previously unreleased demos. In 2001, the Mothersbaugh and Casale brothers reunited under the name the Wipeouters for a one-off surf release, P'Twaaang!!! Casale would introduce his Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers solo project with the 2006 album Mine Is Not a Holy War. It was that same year that the band teamed with Disney for Dev2.0, a band/project/album that involved a set of preteens re-recording classic Devo tracks, although some lyrics were adjusted to be more "family friendly." Devo got back to releasing their own material in 2007 with the downloadable single "Watch Us Work It," but a new, promised album failed to materialize. In 2008 they returned to Akron for a rare show and in support of Barack Obama's presidential campaign with all proceeds going toward the Summit County Democratic Party. After deluxe 2009 reissues of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and Freedom of Choice sent the band back on the road to play said albums live in their entirety, work resumed on a new album. By the end of the year, it was announced that the band had once again signed with Warner for an album originally titled "Fresh." An Internet campaign where fans got to choose the full-length's 12 tracks inspired the 2010 effort, Something for Everybody. Sadly, Bob Casale died suddenly and unexpectedly from heart failure on February 17, 2014; he was 61 years old. ~ Steve Huey & Greg Prato, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Fresh (Single)

Comments

spensoid
They need to be in rock and roll hall of fame. They really rocked at the start, and were ahead of their time in many ways. Also incredibly entertaining , dramatic, intelligent, and funny. Not a novelty or just-for-ner d s .
I didn't know Bob had died! RIP Bob 2. DEVO was the musical precursor to the Borg. Live long & prosper. \\//_
RIP Bob 2
RIP BOB :-)
There covers r wierd
Grew up with Devo, got to take my son to see them at outdoor concert at Mn Zoo 2 summers ago. They could still bring it. R.I.P. Bob 2.
jeanne.ohara
Before the cream stays out too long, you must whip it... Some of the greatest lyrics of all time!
GREAT LIVE SHOW !! R.I.P. BOB 2 !!
Glad I had the opportunity to meet you, Bob 2. You were genuine and kind.
cprogression
Air guitar tribute to Bob via the Smart Patrol/Mr DNA just rocked my house. Full blast at 2:20 am... I think maybe Bob heard it from where he is now. See you when I get to the gig brother - Century John in Port Richey
RIP Bob 2
larsstenberg
miss you bob
plumb63
raycardellin o : you are going way out on a limb with those proto-commie assertions.. . g e t a clue and inform yourself the true meaning of difficult terms before projecting your junk thoughts on such a fantastic band!
RIP Bob Casale.
raycardellin o
Love their art.
Hate their Hard Lefty, Trayvon Symp, Proto-Commie politics.
1:kiss ur left hand
2: say ur crushes name
3:close ur hand
4:say ur name
5:say a school day
6:post this on at least 15 more songs and ur crush will ask u out on the day u said
Ohio provided some of the BEST entertainmen t EVER! Nkdkslskndnn & & $ ! !
YOU MUST WHIP IT
russelljenki n s 5 4
Devo is awsome if you like new wave music Devi is not forgotten ..we are men in a troubled world
The music in revenge of the nerds was DEVO
Heavy Metal appears. This is not metal at all.
Spud reporting for duty!
D-E-V-O!
tstone937
I Love the group. Hate the fact they are Dumbacrats.. .
love it !!! love it !!!
You all do realize that Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) was inspired by Gary Numan & DEVO.....The review called New Traditionali s t s Dark...well. . . . I guess that's true since Trent's song Right where it belongs was a tribute to DEVO'S It's a Beautiful World
bellv236
A: We are Devo!
one thousand internets to Maxwell M.
vic_dlg
Love devo
Are we not men...?
csmith4075
@bladecki They were also accused of being fascists by Rolling Stone. You still don't get the joke.
Anyone ever hear of the concept Subgenius? De-volition was a part of that. There was a book and a movie called Arise. It kind of makes you feel like you have lost your mind but some of it is fun and parts make sense. Think for yourself or you will devolve!
SHRIVEL UP
missycat_97
GENIUS BAND!!!!! DEVO RULES!!!! (@Maxwell- haha! you are so correct!)
C@Keith Bladecki: Because you just HAVE to make your decisions on what you listen to based on the band's political standpoint. You, sir, are a perfect example of de-evolution in progress.
gyrlfrend
@invalid1967 : F**k you!
F**k devo thay stand up for that a**hole Obama.
I remember when they appeared on Square Pegs playing That's Good. All my classmates were talking about it the next day.
Coming in concert in Tucson, AZ on May 24th. Got my ticket and my energy dome is cranking already!
Hold on I've gotta uncontrollab l e urge myself
Coolest tribute was the guys in the movie Revenge of the Nerds.
dlambert489
step on a crack break yo mama back
Most original kick a** bands ever.
Man! wot can i say! The ultimate in taking the piss out of society and still doing it! just saw them and just brilliant! no one can comprehenday their potato, cos we can't find our tomato! duty now for the future.
Mark Mothersbaugh did the music for Rugrats and still does the music for Good Eats. :)
So far ahead of their time that's at didn't understand them. I've loved them from the very start. And, they had it SO right about de-evolution . Just read today's headlines and you'll see it everywhere. Devo rules!!!!
I remember being ridiculed by friends/room a t e s at college back in 1979 because of this album. Now it's at every wedding..... u g h
Don't read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest Friday by the LOVE of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you do not post this comment to at least 3 songs you will die in 2 days, now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this in at least 5 songs in at least143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually works
384881922
Yes
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