By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
* * *
Certainly the problem was Devo was a rock band, and no rock band ever really did anything serious besides the Beatles (and James Brown and Elvis); probably more the problem was that Devo was completely unique on every level, which blew out too many industry circuit breakers; probably worse was the concept of de-evolution itself—they got it from a comic book? And some bullshit quack tract about cannibal monkeys? So we're going to wake up one morning and be cavemen? Too weird. Look in the mirror, crumple your brow, wipe a certain light from your eye: trash sci-fi. In some ways, maybe people were distracted by that: Did de-evolution mean people are getting stupider? Sure, they're stupider. Got it—next novelty band, please.
But that's too narrow, and de-evolution is decay, entropy, things falling apart, which they do—that's nature, from the cave to the moon to the cave. Just a cycle, a lifespan magnified, except this one is the one big human cycle, and there won't be another. Which is the sad part, the part man was not meant to know—the tyranny of the finite, you could say. Per maverick almost-Nobel winner Fred Hoyle, back in 1964: "It has often been said that if the human species fails to make a go of it here on Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing high intelligence, this is not correct. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species, however competent, can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same will be true of other planetary systems. On each of them, there will be one chance, and one chance only."
One chance: the way so many things work. Devo had theirs, and they did great, better than probably any band of their generation except the Ramones, and with better music: more ambitious and serious and effective than probably anyone from 1978 to 1984. But like the guy says: fuck rock & roll, I'd rather read a book. Mark Mothersbaugh Malthus, you missed your socio-literary calling, and how do you feel now? Maybe like you did then: "The war is over. Stop fighting." In some ways, the joke still stands: a new wave band whose Cassandra shtick was fulfilled and more within their own lifetimes (Casale told CNN he never thought he'd see the end of democracy in the U.S.; hyperbole, but ouch anyway . . . ) and who retire now to the world they unfortunately discovered. Devo was the greatest and, above that, the most right American new wave band—as they grudgingly brought up when DutyNowbegan getting bad reviews, the only people doing something "new" in new wave. But the real point is Devo figured it out first, and no one listened. A little scene from New York, as a random upstanding American finds our spud boys in costume, loading out the van for a show.
"What is this?" he asks. "Some kind of group?"
"Yeah," said one of the Devo guys, probably Mark, the Booji Boy man-baby mask floppy and hollow in his hand.
"So what's that mask for?" asks the guy.
"For later," said Devo.
DEVO AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND DR., ANAHEIM, (714) 778-BLUE; WWW.HOB.COM. THURS.-FRI., AUG. 4-5, 9 P.M.; ALSO SEPT. 1, 9 p.m. $62.50-$65. ALL AGES.