Monday, December 7, 2009

Devo • Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Freedom Of Choice

I didn't get to see the Devo concerts here in Seattle last month, 'cause I decided I wanted these reissues and couldn't justify all of it. So though I didn't get to hear the band do their first and third albums in their entirety on consecutive nights, I have been enjoying them on vinyl fairly regularly.

Q: Are We Not Men? is their U.S. debut, from 1978, and I'm sure the first time I heard it I had no idea what to make of these weirdo spudniks from O-Hi-O, which must've been around the time I saw 'em on Saturday Night Live in the video for "Come Back Jonee" as bowling cowboys. It wasn't until a few years later, probably about when Freedom Of Choice came out, that I kinda got it. (In between came Duty Now For The Future, which, it turns out, is my favorite.) 1980's Freedom brought the world "Whip It" and soon many music fans knew about De-evolution. Both of these albums have been lovingly remastered, with the CDs featuring bonus tracks and the LPs reproduced pretty much exactly the way they originally came out (though now they're on yellow and red vinyl). A: We Are Devo! CD adds the complete album recorded live in 2009, and that concert is actually better than you might expect, especially if you haven't seen them live in the last decade or so. The Freedom CD adds on the Dev-O Live EP from later in '80, which is fine but not nearly as important to the Devo fan (who probably already has it). Yet, all of it sounds quite good. In fact, I liked the mastering job on the CDs so much that I just had to go out and buy the vinyl, too. There are lots of things in the mixes that apparently were always there yet never really stood out from the general murk of late '70s, stack-'em-high-and-sell-'em-as-fast-as-you-can pressings on flimsy cheap vinyl that now make themselves noticed. And the overall sound is punchy but not horribly modern like that Led Zeppelin debacle of a few years ago. (I would've reviewed that as "Mothership? Mother-shit!")

If you've never dipped farther than the big hit song in this band's cannon, why not pick one or two of these up and dig in? It may or may not change your mind about the band, but you know, the guys in the band probably don't give a pooty poo-poo about that.
5/5 (Q: Are We Not Men?), 3/5 (Freedom Of Choice) (Warner Bros. Records/Because Sound Matters)

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