"Uncontrollable Urge"

>> Saturday, January 15, 2011

I can't shake the suspicion that a lot of people think of Devo as '80s kitsch, and why not? I mean, the biggest hit they had, really, was a song about overcoming your issues that was easily confused for a weird song about sadomasochism--"Whip It." And they wore flowerpots on their heads, which is understandably hard to take seriously.

What a lot of people don't get, maybe, is that the single moment that led to the formation of Devo was an event that occurred when the guys in the band were in college in the early 1970s: specifically, Devo formed--in spirit, at least--on May 4, 1970, before the guys even put together a band. Here's founding member Jerry Casale:

Whatever I would say, would probably not all touch upon the significance or gravity of the situation at this point of time. It may sound trite or glib. All I can tell you is that it completely and utterly changed my life. I was white hippie boy and than I saw exit wounds from M1 rifles out of the backs of two people I knew. Two of the four people who were killed, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause, were my friends. We were all running our asses off from these motherfuckers. It was total utter bullshit. Live ammunition and gasmasks–none of us knew, none of us could have imagined. They shot into a crowd that was running. I sopped being a hippie and I started to develop the idea of devolution. I got real, real pissed off.

What's left after something like that, except to go a little crazy, to take it as proven that humanity is on the downslope and whatever poor pinnacle human civilization has to show for itself is a hundred miles behind you? What's left but to go a little crazy and start making angry, minimalist music about the absurdity and horror of modernity while wearing a flowerpot and a ragged painter's coveralls?

Of course that was forty years ago, right, and the guys have since become--and I mean no criticism here--establishment musicians. They write film scores and TV themes and music for advertisements, and it's wonderful, eccentric stuff. Mark Mothersbaugh's stuff is just fabulous and so's the stuff the other members of the band put out on their own or in the various collective combinations that Devo's evolved into. They've earned what they've got, and kudos to them. The question isn't about that, the question is whether they were right in the first place? We've limped on, but was the human race run out nearly half a century ago or are we still in some kind of running to achieve whatever potential we have, albeit hanging on by threads?

I dunno. I guess what I do know is this is a fucking great song. "Uncontrollable Urge":


Random Michelle K Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 5:52:00 PM EST  

Whip It was their most famous song? Why did I think it was "Working in a Coal Mine"?

Oh. Right. Nevermind.

Eric Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 8:05:00 AM EST  

Because of your obsession with Heavy Metal? Hey, it's cool, I just think going to your high school prom dressed as Taarna was maybe a bit much: I don't think the principal was as bothered by all the skin as he was by the broadsword and the fact you tried to dress your dog as some kind of bird-monster-steed and got mad when they wouldn't let it in.

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