Devo: Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology

Devo: Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology

Devo's message of human devolution is more important than ever. For evidence, look no further than the pop charts: Twenty-two years ago, one of the band's best jokes was its cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," a robotic take on the song that drained it of passion, spontaneity, and everything else rock 'n' roll. Today, Britney Spears does the same thing and no one blinks an eye. Who's devo now? "We're all devo" was the band's perennial answer, which was part of the reason it worked so well: More than an arch, hipster joke, Devo became the joke, morphing into nerdish drones who were through being cool as much out of necessity as choice. Of course, Devo was always meant as something more. Rising in the early '70s out of Ohio's Kent State, its view of humanity in decline jelled when co-leader Jerry Casale witnessed the National Guard shootings. Casale, frontman and songwriting partner Mark Mothersbaugh, and three others formed Devo and formulated the Devo philosophy, an elaborate concept developed as much in short films, music videos, live appearances, and record sleeves as in the music itself. A new two-disc career retrospective, Pioneers Who Got Scalped, naturally concentrates on the music, which, like the band itself, easily transcends mere novelty, especially early on. Too resigned to be punk, too self-conscious to be new wave (though the band influenced both movements), Devo used a herky-jerky assault of guitars and keyboards to create indelible tracks. Pioneers' first-disc collects most of the best, including off-kilter covers ("Satisfaction," "Secret Agent Man," "Working In The Coal Mine," the rare "It Takes A Worried Man"), tales of sexual longing ("Girl U Want," "Jerkin' Back 'N' Forth"), and accounts of the state of devolution ("Jocko Homo," "Freedom Of Choice"). Disc two rescues from obscurity Devo's underrated post-"Whip It" early-'80s work and some (mostly) justifiably forgotten later efforts. By the time Devo unveiled "Here To Go," "That's Good," and its cover of "Are You Experienced?," the joke wasn't as funny. But the music still worked, and the band even finds a way to invest "Theme From Doctor Detroit" with a goofy grandeur that immortalizes in song one of Dan Aykroyd's least-loved films. Now, that's devo.

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