Devo: The Men Who Make the Music: DVD

Mar 19, 2015

This is Devo’s first “video album,” originally put together in 1978/79 for Time Life, who apparently decided its (very) loose plot about the shitty side of “Big Entertainment” was a bit too anti-record industry and refused to release it. It did see release some years later, but only now is it getting a proper DVD reissue. It’s essentially comprised of a couple of bits from their earlier film, The Truth about De-Evolution, some music videos for tunes off their first and second albums, and a number of live performances from a 1978 tour strung together with appearances by General Boy and Booji Boy. Sweetening the deal is Butch Devo and the Sundance Gig, a full set from, well, a 1996 gig at the Sundance Film Festival, and a few bonus music videos.

Looking at this footage now is a nice reminder of how prescient—and truly odd—Devo were, especially within the context of the U.S. rock scene of the 1970s. Even within the then-nascent punk scene they were a decided anomaly, a band that was as much an attack on American society as it was its reflection. Here they were just coming into their own, a few years before “Whip It” caught them mainstream attention and their name became the go-to slur bandied about by thick meatheads who couldn’t think of any other reference for things that were too different for them. And time hasn’t dulled their edge; it’s made it all the more cutting—though some thirty-seven years have passed since the footage here was put together, so much of American culture has come to resemble the “de-evolution” version Devo created in parody. All that’s missing is an official “Corporate Anthem,” but I imagine that’s only a matter of time. As for this, it is, of course, a must-have. –Jimmy Alvarado (MVD Visual, 203 Windsor Rd., Pottstown, PA19764)