INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Slash NOVEMBER 1978 - by Lively
DEVO - Q: ARE WE NOT MEN? A: WE ARE DEVO! / WORKFORCE TO THE WORLD
I can't seem to agree with myself about these two albums. It's another contradicting, damaged hate/love affair - but what plagues me more is the fact that no matter what I say, no matter what anyone says, Devo is doomed to stardom. They're on the radio as I write these words, there's no escaping. But they should be on the radio and on television and they should take their unique concept to every place possible: they've been at it for six years. Mostly in private, and when they did play in those formative years, it was mostly to hostile audiences, so I respect their intentions.
They're a great modern live unit, possibly one of the best. The power and presence they've harnessed is close to being awesome. Workforce kind of typifies their general attitude. It's fair-to-good Davo representation, but the steep prices being asked on the auction block make it an unnecessary one to own. Even though it far outdoes the $7.98 list studio LP, twelve dollars and up is hardly worth it. I've heard infinitely better private tapes and there's another bootleg (this one, by the way, bears an indelible Devo touch) of a Mabuhay performance that puts this to shame. There are some zesty moments here, though. Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA is a well-constructed epic with some intriguing electronics. Gut Feeling has a certain toe-tapping bliss and great hooks.
Other numbers appearing on the record are basically the same, but there's generally an excited ragged feel making these import versions much more appealing. While Workforce is probably one of the best-recorded "bootlegs," it lacks the punch needed to make it really special. The in-between song pseudo-Cheech & Chong/Firesign stoned-out nonsense adds deadly boredom factor. I own this record but I wouldn't recommend dashing out to buy it... in fact, if you're not a fanatical Devotee I wouldn't recommend it at all.
The studio work on the Warner Brothers LP is so flat and dull (contrived?) that it puts me to sleep. OK, there are some interesting snatches here and there. It's just a little difficult to get past garish items (trinkets?) like Come Back, Jonee, Space Junk (Van Der Graaf goes mod?), Shrivel Up or Praying Hands. The latter works much better on the bootleg, the rest sound remarkably like some Tubes nightmare dribble. That's all we need, right? Depending on the mood, the case with much of their material, some of it is very persuasive. Like Too Much Paranoia, which is positively menacing at times and lame at others, or the wimpy-love on Sloppy. Gut Feeling still knocks me out but there's little difference between it and the other versions. But these are old songs for anyone who has seen Devo; if I had never heard them before, they would have fared better.
The question is: just how manymiles does Devo intend to get from a few original ideas? Truthfully, how many times can you listen to Jocko Homo? (In a row? Please! Anything but that!) And Eno's production, while being tasteful and spare, is hardly the sparkling keenness he normally achieves. In a nutshell, this record is a profound disappointment. Since my initial curiosity wore off, I've hardly played it. I now think twice about shelling out cash on frivolous things like records by reputation.