My Love Affair With Devo!

A lot of people have taken Devo for granted. Thanks to cheeky hits like "Whip It" and "Workin' In A Coalmine", they've long been written off as something of a novelty act.  Of course, the matching outfits, the Aztec energy domes, and being decades ahead of their competition at all times was why their fans loved them, but also why the rest of the world found them to be "weird".

How I came to know of Devo was much the same way as everyone else. I didn't discover them years before "Whip It" stormed up the charts, or anything. I loathed the song - still do - and only happened upon their other stuff when my brother bought "Freedom Of Choice" and started playing the crap out of it. It was then that I realized these guys had some cool-ass songs and they weren't just a synth band, either. There were guitars aplenty on songs like "Gates Of Steel", "Girl U Want" and the title cut.

The great thing about discovering a band a few albums into their career (which I've done many times) is that you're able to go forward and backward, absorbing new material at the same time you're digging into the band's past. Upon discovering the group's first album, "Q: Are We Not Men, A: We Are DEVO", I was completely enamored by the band and just shook my head at the me I used to be; the guy who'd totally missed that album when it was released.

The band's forth album, "New Traditionalists" was missing a "Whip It" of its own and slowly Devo's chart success began sliding gradually with each new album. Quite frankly, that mattered little to me at the time. My friends and I remained huge Devo fans and I'm sure the powers that be at Warner Brothers were quite impressed with the unusually high record sales that took place in a small town in Michigan that didn't even appear on most maps. Well, not the good maps, anyway.

Of course, "New Traditionalists" contains my favorite Devo song, "Beautiful World", which should have been a massive hit, but priority was given to "Jerkin' Back & Forth" and "Through Being Cool" instead.

I was with Devo through "Peek-a-boo", which had cool tracks like "Patterns" and the completely over-the-top title cut, but "Shout!", their last album for Warner Brothers, left me cold. So cold, in fact, that I completely ignored their first release for Enigma Records, "Total DEVO".

Yet, a couple years later, I was in the process of unloading a good portion of my paycheck at the now defunct Dr. Wax Records when I noticed a new Devo album in the bins called "Smooth Noodle Maps". I bought it without giving it a second thought and ended up playing it relentlessly. Sure, it was a little more dance-oriented than I liked, but whatever. I was also listening to a lot of dance/industrial stuff at the time, so it wasn't that far a stretch.

My love affair with Devo had been rekindled, to a point. When the band's tour found its way to Chicago, I caught their appearance at the Metro. Going in, I was a little hesitant. I was plagued by the idea that the band was gonna let me down by putting on one of those shows that a lot of bands give you when they've been reduced to a club-level act after years at the arena level. They started the show with an acoustic set, believe it or not, and, although it was good enough, I thought my suspicions were on their way to being confirmed.

Then the band tossed the acoustic instrumentation aside like so many dirty shirts, plugged in their guitars & synths, and proceeded to rock the sold-out Metro off its foundation.  Tears streamed down my face, maybe it was sweat, but I didn't care.  I turned around and looked at the audience behind me and found that I was not alone.  The whole place was drenched with tears, sweat, and electricity.  In any other setting, I would have said that was a bad combination, but on this night, it was heaven.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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