[Review] Devo: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

I’ve got a gut feeling these guys are geniuses.

Kronomyth 1.0: Shrivel up, peepholes.

Twenty years after rock & roll helped stir a social revolution, Devo presented us with our own social de-evolution. No less a luminary than David Bowie believed Devo to be the future of music. I was thirteen years old when Q: Are We Not Men? came out, and bought it based solely on the Brian Eno production credit (I was a big Bowie fan from an early age). I still remember listening to it rapturously on the car ride home with my brother and father, neither of whom shared my enthusiasm. Forty years later, this record still gives me goosebumps.

Art is never created in a vacuum, though you could argue that Akron, Ohio was a kind of vacuum, shielded from the local influences that informed the music of Talking Heads and Gang of Four. (Meanwhile, several states away, The B-52s were creating similar music in new Athens.) Devo’s debut album sounded like nothing I had heard before: white aggro funk mixed with elements of punk, pop and post-modernism, presented as a tongue-in-cheek critique of an idealized Amerika. Although Devo unveils their manifesto on “Jocko Homo,” it’s the opening “Uncontrollable Urge” that best sums up the band’s approach, as if all their repressed sexual energy were manifested as music. (Their earliest recordings seem to bear this out.)

Anal is the word. They were a terrifying group of people to work with because they were so unable to experiment.” – as observed by Brian Eno.

The songs of Q: Are We Not Men? represent the cream of the spud crop from the last few years: “Jocko Homo,” “Mongoloid” and their herky-jerky rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Also included here are such minor classics as “Space Junk,” “Gut Feeling,” “Shrivel-Up” and “Come Back Jonee.” There isn’t a single track on here that doesn’t poke your brain in pleasant places. Despite the tantalizing presence of Eno, it seems a true collaboration wasn’t in the cards, and any influence he had on the final product was minimal; this is Devo’s album from beginning to end. Subsequent albums would re-hash the same ideas even as it all devolved into Kraftwerkian robot music (some of which, such as New Traditionalists, was still quite revolutionary). In 2009, a complete live performance of Q: Are We Not Men? was appended to the original album, underscoring just how ahead of its time Devo has always been. Perhaps it will be up to future generations to decode it all.

Original LP Version

A1. Uncontrollable Urge (Mark Mothersbaugh) (3:08)
A2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Mick Jagger/Keith Richard) (2:38)
A3. Praying Hands (Gerald V. Casale/Mark Mothersbaugh) (2:47)
A4. Space Junk (Gerald V. Casale/Bob Mothersbaugh) (2:13)
A5. Mongoloid (Gerald V. Casale) (3:42)
A6. Jocko Homo (Mark Mothersbaugh) (3:38)
B1. Too Much Paranoias (Mark Mothersbaugh) (1:56)
B2. Gut Feeling (Mark & Bob Mothersbaugh) / (Slap Your Mammy) (Gerald V. Casale)
B3. Come Back Jonee (Gerald V. Casale/Mark Mothersbaugh) (3:46)
B4. Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’) (Mark Mothersbaugh/Bob Mothersbaugh/Gerald V. Casale/Gary Jackett) (2:37)
B5. Shrivel-Up (Gerald V. Casale/Mark Mothersbaugh/Bob Mothersbaugh) (3:05)

CD bonus tracks
12. Uncontrollable Urge (live)
13. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (live)
14. Praying Hands (live)
15. Space Junk (live)
16. Mongoloid (live)
17. Jocko Homo (live)
18. Too Much Paranoias (live)
19. Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy) (live)
20. Come Back Jonee (live)
21. Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’) (live)
22. Shrivel-Up (live)

The Players

Bob “Bob2” Casale (rhythm guitar, keyboards, vocals), Jerry Casale (vocals, bass, keyboards), Bob “Bob1” Mothersbaugh (lead guitar, vocals), Mark Mothersbaugh (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Alan Myers (drums). Produced by Brian Eno; engineered by Conrad Planck except B4/B6 by Patrick Gleeson.

The Pictures

Cover graphic courtesy of DEVO INC. Graphic supervision by John Cabalka. Package production design by Erik Munson. Graphic concept and excution by DEVO INC. Production photograph by Bobbi Watson. Inner sleeve still photos from the film “The Truth About DE-EVOLUTION,” directed by Chuck Statler.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, colored (blue, yellow) vinyl elpee and 8-track on August 28, 1978 in the US and Canada (Warner Bros., BSK/M8 3239), the UK (Virgin, V/VP-2106), Germany (Virgin, 26 353 XOT), Japan (Warner Bros., P-10591W), the Netherlands (Virgin, 26369-XOT) and Portugal (Virgin, VV-33.05V) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #78 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #12 on the UK charts. UK and German versions feature different cover. Also released on picture elpee in 1979 in the UK (Virgin, VP-2106) with bonus 7-inch flexi disc featuring “Flimsy Wrap.”

  1. Re-packaged with Duty Now For The Future on 2-for-1 cassette in 1983 in Australia (Warner Bros., 23944-4).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in the US (Warner Bros., 3239-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on April 25, 1991 in Japan (Warner, WPCP-4169).
  4. Re-packaged with Dev-O Liveon expanded compact disc in June 1993 in the UK (Virgin, CDV 2106).
  5. Re-packaged on expanded compact disc in 2009 in the US (Warner Bros., 49722) with 11 bonus tracks.

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