Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Revisited: "Oh No It's Devo" by Devo

There is a conventional wisdom about the music of Devo, all the more hilarious for the very idea any conventional wisdom could exist where Ohio's finest are concerned. But so it goes that their debut Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo! is their pinnacle, Duty Now For the Future valuable yet underwhelming, and Freedom of Choice, the "mersh" record, famous for giving the world "Whip It" and the energy dome. The product after is pretty damn negligible.

In the case of Devo's final three albums, conventional wisdom is dead-on. But the fourth album, the one with the potatos on it, is actually worth your time. Yet it seems only diehard Spuds know this. Oh No It's Devo is a minor classic in the realm of early 80s synth-pop, what the B-52s Whammy would have been if Fred Schneider wasn't so damn flamboyant.

"Time Out For Fun"
--Simon Says as motivational tool. Everyone find your inner happy rhombus! A straight-faced message of optimism that doubles as one of the bands greatest songs. Almost unbelievable coming from the cynical mind of Gerald Casale.

"Peek-a-Boo"--This song is like a baby. It's real cute. Then times passes, the baby grows into a toddler to a young child to a teen to an adult. Along the way, it stops being so damn cute.

"Out of Sync"--In the vein of "All She Wants to Do is Dance", in that it references a metaphorical "she". But Devo didn't write cautionary tales about cocaine, they just snorted the shit.

"Explosions"--A lost classic. Sounds the way an assembly line looks. The Discovery Channel, had it still the sense it was born with, would make this the theme to "How They Make It". I also like explosions that leave me feeling good.

"That's Good"--It's dancey, but not too, and they once played it on Square Pegs. Which starred Sarah Jessica Parker, who later starred on Sex in the City, which also featured Kim Catrall. Who once dated Gerald Casale. See what I did there? 'Cause I sure as hell don't.

"Patterns"--A redo of "One Dumb Thing" (found only on Pioneers Who Got Scalped), this is a spudly ballad, done in inimitable Mark Mothersbaugh style. Life is a series of patterns inside one larger pattern, and our life is better when we take the initiative to shape them to our benefit.

"Big Mess"--A schizophrenic radio DJ named "Cowboy Kim" sent interesting mail to an LA office that handled the fan mail of a local game show. Some of those privy to these missives just happened to be Friends Of Devo, and passed them along to the band. Hence, this song, which is luckily more dynamic than the backstory.

"Speed Racer"--Proof positive that Mark wrote better music than lyrics. I'd be fucking pissed if Weird Al did my own style better than me, too.

"What I Must Do"--Sounds like Gerald Casale hitting up the church confessional, if that made even the slightest bit of sense. "I must do what I must do/And I do/Though I know better". Like dating bisexual chicks.

"I Desire"--Infamous for consisting strictly of John Hinckley poetry. The beat is like what happens when manufacturers attempt to infuse toy soldiers with erotic feeling.

"Deep Sleep"--Not very somnolent. Almost out of Rygar, really.

And now I really wish I had my old Nintendo.

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