Friday, January 06, 2006

"Today's noise is tomorrow's hootenanny" - or children's album

The above quote is from DEVO (the truncated form of "de-evolution") circa 1978, when their musical output was considerably noisier than the brightly syncopated mutations that eventually caught public attention. It lodged in my pubescent brain and eminated radio-waves of profound significance, the way such archly "wise" ruminations tend to in young lads of a certain age. I was 13 at the time. Some guys were drawn into the kabuki theatre of KISS; I was drawn to the art-haus theatre (kabuki with irony) of DEVO, precisely because of their penchant for sci-fi pontificating.

The fact that their signature song, at that time, had a time signature of 7/8 only added to my feelings of superiority. It was only a matter of time before they took a knee to 4/4, of course, and my first High Fidelity moment ("They were so much cooler when I was the only one listening to them!") occurred in the winter of 82, when a 16-year-old could get in the family car, turn on the AM radio at any given time and inevitably hear one of three DEVO singles from the New Traditionalists album.

It's been a long, long time since I've given their gleeful perversity a spin on my turntable. The fact that DEVO frontman Mark Mothersbaugh was a hands-on participant in the DEVO/Swiffer ad didn't help (that ad was wrong on so many levels - originally a sneering paean to S&M extremes set to a jaunty minimalist 4-note riff, only to rocket to Billboard Top Ten notoriety, only to become an ad extolling the joys of "Swiffering" in other people's houses(?!) - it almost started to look right after a while). But then, I suppose that's devolution for you.

Now there's news of a DEVO children's album - DEVO 2.0. That almost sounds promising. No, check that: at this point in my life, a DEVO children's album actually sounds like a positive improvement - an evolutionary step forward, as it were. Which leads to the obvious question:

Could this be the end of DEVO?

The official DEVO site is here. And I've got to admit: my first visit to the on-line store nearly had me reaching for my credit card.


DarkoV said...

Have to admit that I've stopped following/listening to any group that hints at costumes since Peter Gabriel unloaded his accoutrement upon leaving Genesis. I hope that doesn't come off as uppity?!? Nowadays, if there's a hint of a dress-up, my ears tend to close. (That might have to do with going to an opera as well).
The only thing/person I'll put up with is the bizarre collection of hats that Neil Young is sporting these days on the concert trail. Other than that, Musician type people, I like the Italian suit, no tie look. No more clown-wear.

Whisky Prajer said...

I'm in the odd position of enjoying the costumes while not enjoying the music. It does me a weird sort of good to see the latest generation of garish heavy metal howlers splattered all over the "music" section of a local magazine stand, even if I can't endure more than five minutes of the music. Similarly, the White Stripes have a good shtick going - and, similarly, I'm not that keen on their tunes. Perhaps the music scene needs another generation of flamboyant gypsies, a la the Haight-Ashbury stylings of Jethro Tull and Janice Joplin?

As for Italian suits, while I like the look of them, I don't believe a man can strum a guitar while wearing one - with the sole exception of Leonard Cohen, of course.

DarkoV said...

"... I don't believe a man can strum a guitar while wearing one (Italian suit)".
Sounds to me, my dear boy, that you haven't had the pleasure of seeing (the late) Joe Pass perform stringed miracles or Al DiMeola catch fire. True that most R&R-ers don't go the suit-route, but I'm sure their playing would be considerably improved if they considered a sartorial change.