DEVO – ” Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! ” Released 28th August 1978

Posted: March 12, 2021 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Are We Not Men We Are Devo!.jpg

“Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” is the debut studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in August 1978, on the labels Warner Bros. and Virgin. Produced by Brian Eno, the album was recorded between October 1977 and February 1978, primarily in Cologne, Germany,

The album received somewhat mixed reviews from critics and peaked at No. 12 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 78 on the U.S. Billboard chart. Recent reviews of the album have been more uniformly positive and the album has charted on several retrospective “best of” lists from publications including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork Media and Spin.

On May 6th, 2009, Devo performed the album live in its entirety for the first time as part of the Don’t Look Back concert series curated by All Tomorrow’s Parties. On September 16, 2009, Warner Bros. and Devo announced a re-release of Q: Are We Not Men? and Freedom of Choice, with a tour performing both albums

In 1977, David Bowie and Iggy Pop received a tape of Devo demo songs from the wife of Michael Aylward, guitarist in another Akron, Ohio band, Tin Huey. Both Pop and Bowie, as well as Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, expressed interest in producing Devo’s first release. At Devo’s New York debut show in 1977, Bowie proclaimed that “this is the band of the future, I’m going to produce them in Tokyo this winter.” Eventually, Eno was chosen to produce the album at Conny Plank’s studio located near Cologne, Germany. Bowie was busy with filming Just a Gigolo but helped Eno produce the record during weekends. Two tracks, “Come Back Jonee” and “Shrivel-Up”, were recorded at Different Fur in San Francisco, California; proprietor Patrick Gleeson co-engineered the album. All tracks were mixed at Plank’s studio. Since Devo was without a record deal, Eno paid for the flights and studio cost for the band, confident that the band would be signed to a record contract. In return for his work on the album, Eno asked for a share of any subsequent deals.

The recording sessions were a source of frustration for Eno and Devo. Eno found the band unwilling to experiment or deviate from their early demonstrations of recorded songs. Devo later admitted that “we were overtly resistant to Eno’s ideas. He made up synth parts and really cool sounds for almost every part of the album, but we used them on three or four songs.” A majority of the tracks were later remixed by David Bowie; excluding “Space Junk”, and “Shrivel Up”, which had Eno’s production still intact.

After 16 years of eligibility, Devo snagged their first Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination in 2018.

It’s a long time coming, say fans. “It took this long for Devo to be nominated simply because their highest charting song, “Whip It,” only got to No. 14, and the history of this process holds that a band gets in either, and mostly, because of popular, commercial success or singular artistic influence,” notes David Giffels, co-author of the band biography Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!

“Critics had a hard time figuring Devo out initially, and they were constantly subverting both the commercial and critical systems. So, they sort of undermined the usual expectation of a rock band in terms of its route through the Rock Hall sausage machine.”

Gerald V. Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh were art students moonlighting in the music world while attended Kent State University. They were there on May 4th, 1970, when the National Guard shot and killed four college students and injured nine others during a protest. De-evolution was happening before their eyes.

The band’s line-up solidified by 1976 when Casale and Mothersbaugh were joined by their respective brothers, both named Bob, and drummer Alan Myers. From there, they slowly infiltrated the mainstream, influencing generations of artists along the way.

They Made One of Rock’s Best Debut Albums, David Bowie famously announced during a 1977 gig at Max’s Kansas City that he was going to produce Devo’s debut album, and that helped secure the band a major-label record deal.  Brian Eno ended up working on most of that LP, 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, which almost immediately found fans, as well as many critics, with its herky-jerky interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The album’s other tracks showed that there was much more to them. “Jocko Homo” and “Uncontrollable Urge” revealed punk roots, while other tracks showed off their experimental nature.

Devo were not Just a Band but an Art Project, A photo of golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez was used for the early “Be Stiff” single as a comment on commercialism. They made a short film all about their theory of de-evolution. And they they were one of the first American bands to embrace video as a new medium. “They pioneered the use of video, predating MTV, and created a new kind of art — the music video — within the rock ‘n’ roll genre at a time when very few new frontiers were left,” says Giffels. “Devo owned the art of video, uniquely and with complete authority.”

They Were Sincere About That De-Evolution Theory, Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale believed that modern society hit its peak and was making a downward slide in the form of de-evolution — that mankind was regressing biologically and as a society. This increased conformity among the masses led to the group’s famous yellow hazmat stage outfits, stiff organized movements and songs that embraced and mocked cultural norms. “Let’s be honest, is there any question that de-evolution is real?” Casale asks UCR. “Did you think we were joking?”

They Managed to Push Their Way Into the Mainstream, Even though their debut album was certified gold, 1980’s Freedom of Choice was even bigger, selling more than a million copies, thanks, in part, to the hit single “Whip It.” Over the years, they’ve released studio LPs, live records, compilations, EPs, singles and a soundtrack, and are one of the most easily recognized bands from the era. They have some high-profile fans, including Neil Young, who included the band in his 1982 movie Human Highway. And Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale have worked on, separately and together, music used in commercials, TV shows and movies, including Pee-wee’s Playhouse, a Diet Coke ad and several of director Wes Anderson’s acclaimed films.

Their Influence Is Super-Huge, Devo’s famous fans and early champions include David Bowie, Brian Eno and Neil Young, but their influence since then has included bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Arcade Fire, all of whom have covered the group onstage or on record. Their robotic rhythms can be heard in countless punk, New Wave, college rock and indie-rock artists throughout the decades. “If you were going to identify a band from the New Wave genre, which certainly deserves a presence in the hall, Devo defined the sound and the look in a quintessential way, and with more artistic and cultural depth, in my opinion, than any other candidate,” says Giffels.

Few albums have announced a band as sufficiently as Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. The record says everything you need to know about the band Devo, and while in 2021 the prospect may feel a little passe, in the late seventies, the mere concept of Devo was revolutionary. For that reason alone, the band go a long way to define the very nature of post-punk music.

Not necessarily the band’s best album, Are We Not Men? is certainly their seminal moment in musical history. It was this album that allowed a generation of music lovers to cock their head sideways and attack rock music with a brand new view. Devo are undoubted pioneers of the post-punk genre and kept the keen spirit of experimentation at the forefront of everything they did.

Devo

  • Mark Mothersbaugh – lead and background vocals; keyboards; guitar
  • Gerald Casale – lead and background vocals; bass guitar; keyboards
  • Bob Mothersbaugh – lead guitar; backing vocals
  • Bob Casale – rhythm guitar; keyboards; backing vocals
  • Alan Myers – drums

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