To celebrate yesterday’s release of our 104th 33 1/3 on Freedom of Choice, we’re pleased to bring you the fifth and final installment of Devo week by author Evie Nagy!
Whenever anyone asks me what I think is the biggest misconception about Devo, I say the general public’s passing perception of the band as a one-hit wonder, the novelty act with the funny hats who sang “Whip It.” Not only do they have enduring fans to the ends of the earth, but they’ve had an important, lasting influence on two generations of artists, even those who on the face of it don’t look or sound anything like Devo. These artists cite the craft of Devo’s music, but they also find a model in Devo’s independent spirit, fearlessness, performance style, attention to visuals, and philosophical commitment.
To close out Devo Week, I thought I would pass the energy dome to one of these artists, acclaimed Providence alt-rock band Deer Tick, who celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2014 in part by playing the entirety of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! at the Brooklyn Bowl. Guitarist Ian O’Neil shared some great thoughts on the effect that Devo has had on his band, and should have on others:
“Devo represents a moment in cultural bravery that stands alone. There are subversions of Chuck Berry and early rock and roll competing with and betraying the expectations forged by the heroes of the genre. All of the explorations of technology become perversions of their predecessors that take any expected format and kick it in its teeth. Devo seemed to wholly rely on themselves. Their approach to the press and performance could benefit every poorly willed young artist today. Loud, dissonant and pleasing, Devo are the heroes of bright danger. They draw you in, terrify you and inspire you back into yourself, reminding you why began making anything to begin with.”
– Ian O’Neil, Deer Tick
Unfortunately there is no video online from Deer Tick’s Devo performance, so I’ll share another supercharged Devo cover by a band that has professed their lifelong status as Devotees: Pearl Jam performing “Whip It” in 2009:
Go forward, move ahead.
– Evie Nagy