Greetings, beautiful mutants! And how may we be of service?
Devo (often spelled DEVO or DEV-O), is a new wave/post-punk group hailing from Akron, Ohio. Most people remember them for their red Energy Dome hats and the 1980 single "Whip It", but their catalogue and achievements extend well beyond that. "Devo" stands for "De-evolution", the band's part-satirical, part-serious take on social and political corruption, bigotry, increasing dependence on consumerism and willful surrender of freedom among the common individual (a.k.a. the "spud"). They were formed by Mark Mothersbaugh, Jerry Casale, and Bob Lewis in 1973 partly as a response to the Kent State shootings (which Casale and Lewis personally witnessed).
Their sound, practically from the start, was based on energetic New Wave Music guitar work (largely divorced from Blues Rock tradition) but largely brought the synthesizer to the forefront. This was often in jarring and dissonant ways, especially their early, more experimental years, before they got a record deal. note Their vocals are of the nasal "geek" variety, and one of the key things holding the entire concoction together was the precise rhythms played by their original, and most famous, drummer, Alan Myers. Onstage, they make use of visuals and costumes that were and still are outlandish. The band's aesthetic blends futuristic, sci-fi themes with primitive ones, emphasizing the role of modern humans as, in their words, "technologically sophisticated cavemen."
The band went through a couple of incarnations as time passed by; Bob Lewis was edged out of the band shortly before the recording of their first album, and a couple of temporary members was loosely attached to the group in the early days, but in 1976 a consistent core group was established, consisting of Mark Mothersbaugh, Jerry Casale, their respective brothers Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale (Bob 1 and Bob 2) and a drummer, most prominently the late Alan Myers (1976-1985) and more recently Josh Freese (1996-present).
The band had a large part to play in the early days of MTV, since so few bands at the time were making music videos and Devo had jumped aboard the idea well before the market really took off in the 80s. Their first video, in fact, was independently filmed in 1974 and debuted at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1976. This film, In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution, contained performances of a warped semi-cover of "Secret Agent Man" and the Devo manifesto, "Jocko Homo" (featuring the repeated chant "Are We Not Men?", a line borrowed from an early movie adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau). The film also introduced two recurring characters in Devo media, Booji Boy - "the infantile spirit of de-evolution", played by Mark Mothersbaugh in a baby mask - and his military father figure, General Boy (played by Mark and Bob 1s dad, Robert Mothersbaugh Sr).
The band soon attracted the attention of Big Name Fans like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Brian Eno, the first two having been in the audience at the Ann Arbor festival. They eventually signed with Warner (Bros.) Records in America (which they later regretted) and Virgin Records in England. Their Eno-produced debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was released in 1978; that same year they appeared on Saturday Night Live in yellow jumpsuits and dark 3D glasses, playing "Jocko Homo" and their infamous cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction". They followed up their debut with Duty Now For The Future in 1979, featuring more songs from their underground years, such as "Wiggly World" and "Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA" (the latter being a six-minute synth-punk fest that only picks up in intensity).
In 1980, they broke through to the mainstream with their third album, Freedom of Choice, which produced the hit single "Whip It" and its accompanying video. The new Devo look included the infamous Energy Dome hats, which were often mistaken for flower pots (although "Weird Al" Yankovic had something to do with that) and gave the general public something to mock (Devo always had the last laugh, though).
Their increased output and touring schedule gave them a few solid years of presence, but there were always setbacks and controversies. Devo became very disillusioned with their record company, who - according to the band later on - only wanted another "Whip It". Their sound also changed from a punk-ish style to a more synthetic style, which didn't help critics' opinions of them. 1981's New Traditionalists and 1982's Oh No, It's Devo! fared only moderately, despite being accompanied by very high-tech and innovative promotional tours: the New Traditionalists tour featured the band on treadmills while Oh, No, It's Devo! brought full background videos onstage, synced with the band's robotic movements. Following that, they were publicly reduced to nothing, and their 1984 album Shout was their last with Warner Bros. and their last with drummer Alan Myers. Myers left after the album was recorded, citing creative deprivation, and he was replaced with drum machines in the studio and Sparks drummer David Kendrick live.
After the band became less active, Mark Mothersbaugh went on to do commercial work and scores for several hit shows, such as Pee-wee's Playhouse and Rugrats, and formed his own music studio Mutato Muzika. Some of his more recent work includes the scores to all of Wes Anderson's films and several blockbuster films including The LEGO Movie and Thor: Ragnarok (both of which relied on Mark's synth-heavy style). Jerry Casale did commercial work as well and directed several music videos, while the other two permanent members Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale joined Mark in scoring. In what the band would later call their own devolutionary period, they recorded two albums with the smaller company Enigma, Total Devo (1988) and Smooth Noodle Maps (1990), both of which went fairly unnoticed, after which the band dissolved in 1991.
The story does not end there, though: Devo reunited and started touring again in 1996, replacing Kendrick with acclaimed session drummer and Promoted Fanboy Josh Freese. That same year the Full Motion Video PC game The Adventures of the Smart Patrol was released in collaboration with Inscape, and it was pretty ill-received. The reunion tour was, however, a success, and Devo would continue during sporadic tours for the next many years to come. In 2006, Devo 2.0, a collaboration project between Disney and Devo, saw the light of day. It featured a band of preteens, playing some of Devo's songs with altered lyrics, as Disney hoped to peddle the band to a kid audience. The old Devo fans was pretty unhappy about this, and Devo 2.0 never really managed to catch on with their intended audience, and when their first album, DEV2.0, tanked, the band dissolved. Devo took it all in stride, musing that the whole affair perhaps was the ultimate proof of de-evolution.
In recent years, Devo has been very active. Other side projects include a de-evolved surf album as "The Wipeouters", a country single as "The Big Dirty Farmers", and a Jerry Casale solo effort as "Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers", playing up the blues influence and rendering a video for "Army Girls Gone Wild." In 2010, Devo made a series of YouTube videos, satirizing the entertainment industry's use of focus groups, in order to promote their ninth studio album. That album, Something for Everybody, was released on June 15, 2010 (after a couple years in Development Hell) and it garnered good reception from fans and critics. In 2013, Devo released a remastered version of Hardcore Devo, which included a couple of previously unreleased demos from their earliest days, as well as Something Else for Everybody, which consisted of the cut songs from Something for Everybody.
The spudboys lost some longtime friends recently. Former drummer Alan Myers passed away from stomach cancer on June 24th, 2013. Bob Casale, a.k.a. Bob 2, passed away from heart failure on February 17th, 2014. Robert Mothersbaugh Sr (General Boy) passed away on May 23rd 2016.
Principal members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Bob "Bob 2" Casale - guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (19731974, 19761991, 19962014, died 2014)
- Gerald Casale - bass guitar, lead vocals, bass synthesizer (19731991, 1996present)
- Josh Freese drums (1996present)
- Josh Hager guitar, keyboards (2014present)
- David Kendrick drums (19871991)
- Bob Lewis - guitar (19731976)
- Robert "Bob 1" Mothersbaugh Jr guitar, vocals (19741991, 1996present)
- Jim Mothersbaugh electronic percussion (19741976)
- Mark Mothersbaugh lead vocals, keyboards, guitar (19731991, 1996present)
- Alan Myers drums (19761986, died 2013)
- Rod Reisman drums (1973)
- Fred Weber vocals (1973)
- Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)
- Duty Now For The Future (1979)
- Freedom of Choice (1980)
- New Traditionalists (1981)
- Oh No! It's Devo (1982)
- Shout (1984)
- Total Devo (1988)
- Smooth Noodle Maps (1990)
- Something For Everybody (2010)
In the past this information has been suppressed, but now it can be told. Every man, woman, and mutant on this planet shall know the tropes of de-evolution:
- Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: Most people pronounce the band's name "DEE-voh," but the band members themselves insist it's "dee-VOH." The latter pronunciation appears in "Jocko Homo", where it can be considered a case of accentuating the wrong syllable to keep the rhythm (we ARE de-VO), and "Time Out for Fun", and is also used by Booji Boy in "We're All Devo!", Nu-Tra in "Nu-Tra Speaks (New Traditionalist Man)" and General Boy in "General Boy Visits Apocalypse Now" and "Duty Now for the Future!", from the Pioneers Who Got Scalped anthology.
- Album Title Drop: "Jocko Homo" for Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (Well, they don't actually say the letters, but y'know, close enough.)
- All Men Are Perverts: In "Soo Bawlz" every man is absolutely drooling over the titular mistress ("Ain't a man in town who wouldn't have her for his daughter/they'd all trade their brains for one taste of her toilet water").
- In "Penetration in the Centrefold" a similar craze happens over a new porn magazine ("All the guys are talking, it's the best they ever found").
- Alter-Ego Acting: Back in the day, Devo frequently performed as their own warm-up act as "Dove (the Band of Love)", a parody of Christian Rock bands.
- Animated Music Video: "Peek-A-Boo" was one of the first music videos to feature computer animation, three years before Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" in 1985.
- Anti-Love Song: "Love Without Anger". "Why fall in love when there's better things to do?"
- "Gut Feeling (Slap Your Mammy)" is a particularly biting example of this trope.Something about the way you taste makes me want to clear my throat,
There's a method to your movements that really gets my goat,
I looked for sniffy linings but you're rotten to the core,
I've had just about all I can take, you know, I can't take it no more!
- "Gut Feeling (Slap Your Mammy)" is a particularly biting example of this trope.
- As Themselves: On the "Muffy's Bat Mitzvah" episode of Square Pegs.
- Asshole Victim: "Jimmy". The chorus is a repetition of "Jimmy's in a wheelchair and I don't care", and the verses elaborate on exactly why Jimmy had it coming.
- Author Catchphrase: Several. While some of these appear in song lyrics and album titles, many were established in concert, interviews, etc. well before those songs appeared on an album.
- Some of these catch phrases are borrowed from sources that inspired Devo. "Are we not men?" is from from The Island of Doctor Moreau. The De-evolutionary Oath is paraphrased from B. H. Shadduck's pamphlet Jocko Homo Heavenbound, and "The beginning was the end" comes from Oscar Kiss Maerth's book of the same name.
- "Choose your mutations carefully."
- "Toil is stupid."
- "It is not nuclear bombs we must fear, but the human mind itself - or lack of it - on this planet." Used twice by General Boy and once by Nu-Tra.
- These have been used for bidding farewell: "Duty now for the future!", "Be happy or not!", and "We're all Devo!"
- Jerry: "How many people here tonight believe that de-evolution is real?"
- From about 2009 on, Jerry's dropped a variation on the line that Devo is "the house band on the Titanic" in every interview.
- "If the spud fits, wear it."
- "We smell, sausage!"note
- B-Side: "Turnaround," the b-side to "Whip It," is a particularly beloved one, so much so that Nirvana did a cover a decade later.
- Band of Relatives: For the majority of the band's history, it contained two families; the Mothersbaugh brothers Mark and Bob 1 (and also briefly their younger brother Jim and their father Robert Sr was also involved with the band, playing the character of General Boy) and the Casale brothers Jerry and Bob 2. With Bob 2's death in 2014 this is sadly no longer the case.
- Bastard Girlfriend: "Space Girl Blues" and "Soo Bawlz."
- Bio-Augmentation: In their Spudland universe, "Recombo DNA labs" are designed for this purpose. In the Roll Out the Barrel sequence, Mark mentions visiting one in the valley and seeing "bubble-eyed dog boys [...] I don't know how they put these things together." They're hopeful that they'll get their own Recombo DNA lab if they sell more records.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: The band took potshots at Warner Bros. at every opportunity.
- Black Comedy: Some of their material is funny in a very disturbing way.
- Case in point: the music video for their cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced". A Jimi lookalike jumps out of a coffin to play the guitar onstage with Devo, and then goes back in and down. Hendrix's estate's reaction made this video hard to find.
- "I Desire" from Oh, No! It's Devo. The lyrics come from a love poem written by John Hinckley, Jr. for Jodie Foster (this just a year after Hinckley's assassination attempt on President Reagan).
- The Truth About De-evolution has someone wearing a John F. Kennedy mask with a bullet hole painted on it.
- Black Comedy Rape: The demo track "Shimmy Shake" features drunken vocals about the narrator's plans to rape a woman 'Nothing's gonna stop me from getting in your pants girl'. Despite having a very catchy tune, it's quite obvious why they didn't return to it.
- Blatant Lies: In the band's early days, the local clubs and bars in Akron were only interested in hiring cover bands. Devo would claim to be a cover band, but when they actually got on stage, they'd immediately launch into their usual material, provoking angry reactions from the crowds.
- While promoting an album from their side-project The Wipeouters (P'Twaaang!), they claimed it was a reunion of a surf-rock band formed by Mark, Bob 1, and Bob 2 in high school. By most accounts the Mothersbaugh/Casale connection is said to have begun at Kent State, making it very unlikely that this band existed before then.
- Bald of Awesome: Josh 2 has one.
- Blind Without 'Em: Mark Mothersbaugh claims he's legally blind without his Nerd Glasses.
- Bowdlerise: Disney made the band soften some of their lyrics for the Devo 2.0 project, often leading to their messages and extensive use of irony getting lost in the process. Go to the Wikipedia article for specific examples.
- Or perhaps the irony got played up; for example, the execs "suggested" they make "Uncontrollable Urge" about food instead of sex, since it was to be sung by a fourteen-year-old girl, which is an odd suggestion considering how often Devo used food as a metaphor for sex.
- Broken Record: "We must repeat!"
- Mark does a very rapid one in their cover of "Satisfaction": "Tell me, baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby..." etc.
- "Pink Pussycat": "I'm so stroooooooft! I'm so stroft, I'm so strooooooft!"
- The title is repeated in this fashion at the end of "Red Eye Express" and "Wiggly World".
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Those weirdos in radiation suits and "flower pot hats" are also the godfathers of New Wave.
- Call-Back: A few riffs and lyrics were recycled from their demos into album tracks.
- The synth solo from "Stop, Look, and Listen" was used later in "Big Mess."
- The somewhat atonal synths from "Chango" were reworked into the pop ballad "Plain Truth."
- "All of Us" became "Going Under."
- Something for Everybody is full of callbacks to earlier albums, notably the "Whip It" drums in "Sumthin'."
- "The Super Thing" drums are used in "Watch Us Work It."
- Their cover of "Are You Experienced?" opens with a sound effect from "Too Much Paranoias."
- "Monster Man" includes a version of the guitar solo from the SFE demo of "Moving On", which was heard at the 2010 Devotional, never to reappear.
- Celebrity Endorsement: Devo once appeared in commercial for Honda scooters, but managed to play it off in their usual style of subversive humor.The entire band: (in perfect, unified monotone) Choose a scooter that best expresses your individuality.
- They made a less amusing appearance in a 1985 ad for Diet Coke
- In 1984, they appeared in a promotional video for the Pioneer LaserDisc player. Devo were early supporters of the format, originally hoping it would catch on so they could release musical films instead of albums.
- Devo's first new single since 1990 was originally used in a commercial for Dell Computers
- Christian Rock: Parodied with Devo's alter-ego band, "Dove (The Band of Love)".
- Clothing Damage: Mark likes to rip off parts of his own (and other member's) suits in concert.
- Color Wash: "The Girl U Want" music video is very purple-and-green, to the point that there almost aren't any other colours. Even skin is mostly purple.
- Comically Missing the Point: In one TV interview in 1981, Mark wore an unusual pair of specs made from the frames used in eye exams - the ones he wore for the New Traditionalists tour. The first question asked was "Mark, why are you wearing those glasses?" His response: "Because I'm legally blind without 'em."
- Cover Version: They've covered: The Rolling Stones "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!), Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man" (Duty Now for the Future), Lee Dorsey's "Working in the Coal Mine" (non-album single, on the Heavy Metal soundtrack, later added as a bonus track to New Traditionalists), Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" (Shout), Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" (Total Devo), Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" (Present on the demo collection, Recombo DNA) "Somewhere" (part of a medley on the live album Now It Can Be Told), Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew" (Smooth Noodle Maps), Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole" (for the soundtrack of Supercop).
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: Really, their choice of covers all seem to be for subversive purposes, in one way or another. "Satisfaction," in particular, builds on the sexual frustration of the original and becomes a tense rant about consumerism.
- Devo also recorded a cover of Crosby, Stills, Nash (And Young)'s "Ohio", for When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You'd Hear. Since Casale and Mothersbaugh had actually witnessed the Kent State shootings, they were ambivalent towards it for a long time, Casale dismissing it as opportunistic and an instance of "rich hippies making money off of something horrible that they didn't get".
- Crapsaccharine World: "Beautiful World" describes our culture and society in glowing terms with upbeat lyrics—until the end of the song; "It's a beautiful world for you/For you/For you... it's not for me". The accompanying video illustrates the idea perfectly, starting with pleasant but silly stock footage, shifting to footage of riots, famine and war at the end.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Devo is usually quite blatant about this. Certain entendres can be found in "Praying Hands," "Uncontrollable Urge," and "Jerking Back 'N' Forth." Songs very obviously about jerking the root include "Be Stiff," "Fountain of Filth," and "Penetration in the Centrefold." Time out for fun indeed.
- That said, the song most people thought was about masturbation, "Whip It", was actually intended as an encouraging song for Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign, according to Mark Mothersbaugh. Jerry Casale also told that he wrote the lyrics in the style of Gravitys Rainbow, as he liked the way it parodied the American view on self-help.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale, in interviews.
- Demoted to Extra: Alan Myers was made practically obsolete by the time Shout was released due to the use of drum machines, and he left essentially out of creative boredom.
- Arguably this happened to Bob 1 on the albums of the late 80s. He himself has said he was unhappy while recording them because he was simply copying the sequencer lines that Mark and Jerry had written for him.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "The satisfied mind is satisfied..."
- Disneyfication: The ill-fated Devo 2.0 project, which the band agreed to mostly because of how ridiculous the idea was.
- Disobey This Message: Deconstructed in "Social Fools", which seems to explore the paradox of how rebellion inevitably becomes conformity.If you take society's tools
You'll make society's rules
Which you'll obey and then disobey
You'll disobey, but then you'll obey
- Driving a Desk: Played for Laughs in the video for "Through Being Cool", which makes no attempts at all to hide the Chroma Key behind the kids.
- Drone of Dread: The intro to "Peek-a-boo."
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The '80s
- Epic Rocking: The band had a habit of screwing with crowds by playing extremely long versions of "Jocko Homo" - their first performance of the song (partially captured on Devo Live: The Mongoloid Years) lasted over 25 minutes, near the end of an opening gig for Sun Ra where they were kicked offstage.Mark Mothersbaugh (1997): We'd play "Jocko Homo" for 30 minutes, and we wouldn't stop until people were actually fighting with us, trying to make us stop playing the song. We'd just keep going, "Are we not men? We are Devo!" for like 25 minutes, directed at people in an aggressive enough manner that even the most peace-lovin' hippie wanted to throw fists.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "That's Pep" suddenly fades out mid-song, then fades back in.
- Five-Man Band:
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Turkey Monkey, the villain of Adventures of the Smart Patrol, is a mutant hybrid resulting from a Freak Lab Accident involving Recombo DNA. The huboon from "Huboon Stomp" is implied to have been created through some sort of botched operation, and Booji Boy apparently shares a similar origin.
- Genre-Busting: While many of their albums after Duty Now may be accurately described as New Wave or synthpop, the earlier one goes back in Devo's history the harder they become to classify. Their pre-Warner Bros. style seems to defy a specific genre; the band used to jokingly refer to it as "Chinese digital rock and roll."
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: "Space Girl Blues."
- Godwin's Law: "Triumph of the Will," and Booji Boy's book My Struggle.
Well my Fraulein done told meWhen I was in goose stepsShe said I would gas themNow I'm a big man.
- The early demo "Fraulein" has a nod to this:
- Heel Realization: The theme of "The Shadow" is that Humans Are Flawed and everyone has a dark side, including the narrator.Sometimes I fail to follow throughOn things that I want to doAnd other times I find myselfDoing the very things I hate
- Humans Are Bastards: The general theme running throughout their work.
- "I Am" Song: "Jocko Homo", to the uninitiated, seems like the band is simply announcing their name, and on some level it functions as an anthem. The implied message, however, is that "we're all Devo."
- On the other hand, "Stop, Look, and Listen" is unambiguously about the band: "It's D-E-V-O! From O-H-I-O!"
- "Time Out for Fun" begins with "Hello, this is Devo".
- I Am the Band: Jerry and Mark are the only two members to have been with the band from the very beginning, though Bob 1 has been a member since 1974.
- I Choose to Stay: "Planet Earth": "On Planet Earth/I'll probably stay/On Planet Earth/It's a place to live your life."
- I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: Mocked in "Triumph of the Will," in which a rapist uses this idea to excuse his crime.
- An alternate interpretation of this song is All Women Are Lustful.
- I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: In "Soft Things": "I acted so neurotic/I thought it idiotic/Her dance was so technotic/She became hypnotic." Guess what "soft things" are in this case.
- Instrumental Instrumentals: Devo has the E-Z Listening versions of select songs from their catalog as well as "Corporate Anthem" and "Timing X."
- In the Style of...: Jerry is imitating Wall of Voodoo frontman Stan Ridgway on "Beautiful World" and "Commercial Break-Up".
- Intercourse with You: Frequently coupled with awkward, over-the-top euphemisms. Examples include: "Goo Goo Itch," "Clockout," "Pink Pussycat," "Don't You Know," "Going Under," "Race of Doom," "The Super Thing," "Blow Up," "When We Do It," "Part of You," "Please Baby Please."
- Interrupted Intimacy: One interpretation of "Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')".
- It Amused Me: The interviews with the band about Devo 2.0 strongly indicates that their main reasons for approving of the project was that they found the idea of Disney trying to sell kid-friendly versions too absolutely hilarious to pass on.
- Later Installment Weirdness: The Enigma Records years, i.e. Total Devo and Smooth Noodle Maps (from 1987 and 1990 respectively). The lyrics still had a quirkiness to them, but they had a much more mainstream polish to the music, by Devo standards. "Plain Truth" from Total Devo takes a dissonant melody from the Hardcore Devo years, and turns it into a catchy, plink-plonking pop hook. The band don't think much of their music from this period.
- Lead Bassist: Gerald Casale, types B and C.
- Love Hurts: A recurring theme throughout their work ("Gut Feeling," "It's Not Right," "Cold War," "Please Please," etc.) and heavily featured on Total Devo ("Baby Doll," "I'd Cry if You Died").
- Love Makes You Dumb: Another common theme, employed especially in "Ton o' Love," "Love Without Anger," "The Jurisdiction of Love," and "Mind Games."
- "The Satisfied Mind" tells us that "lucky ones learn that love is blind."
- Lyrical Dissonance: Used throughout their career, but perhaps most notably in "Beautiful World", which is so upbeat-sounding that people sometimes failed to realize it was actually an ironic ode to complacent superficiality.
- "Through Being Cool" becomes this when you see the music video which depicts 'cool people' bullying nerds in the hope they will become the same as them, so that there are no longer distinctions between 'cool' and 'nerd'. It's the complete opposite of what the song itself is thought of as meaning, which is that Devo want to be nerds and stay away from cool people.
- Lyric Swap: In "Jocko Homo" at least.
- Made of Iron: Booji Boy has been beheaded twice and also electrocuted by a toaster. He survived all of them.
- Madness Mantra: The creepy lyrics of "Big Mess" are taken almost verbatim from letters sent by a mentally ill person named "Cowboy Kim" to an LA radio station, and which were passed onto the band by their friends who worked there because of their strangeness.
- Misogyny Song: Some of the stuff on the Hardcore Devo compilations was understandably left off their actual albums since, according to Allmusic, they "come off as the mildly misogynistic rantings of sexually frustrated misfits," like the charming "I Need a Chick" ("...to suck my dick") and "I've Been Refused." "Baby Talkin' Bitches", likely aimed at the Valley Girl or Brainless Beauty, is the most directly harsh: "We do not like you in many ways/We could do without you for days."
- Of their material that made it onto a Warner Bros. album, "Triumph of the Will" is the biggest example. One might interpret it as satire of a sexual predator's mentality (coupled with references to Nazi propaganda), but if that's the case the deadpan delivery toes the line between serious and satire in a Poe's Law sense.
- Mission from God: Apparently Devo signed with Enigma Records in the late 1980's because "Bob" Dobbs from The Church Of The Subgenius told them to do so. No, seriously!
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Their more synth-heavy material usually settles around a 3, but their first album is closer to 5, and the Hardcore Devo compilations are all over the place.
- Penetration In The Centerfold is probably a 6 or 7, being close to hardcore punk, with frequently yelled vocals.
- Morning Routine: In "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)": "I get up every day/It's a miracle, I'm told/Somehow I live to work/So I hit the road."
- Multiple-Choice Past: The energy domes have been given various origin stories, with members claiming they were inspired by ziggurats, a Little Lulu comic, or a particular lamp design.
What may be Devo is the fact that Mark and I wrote songs with certain lyrics and played songs a certain way. Thats what made Devo, Devo. Not who read what book first.—Jerry Casale, 2009
- Booji Boy has at least two origins; he is either "as old as the mountains and is yet unborn," or is really named Craig Rothwell and "submitted to a botched operation in an effort to land a media deal with Big Media."
- They've often told about their encounter with Mick Jagger in interviews - the labels demanded they get his blessing to release their cover of "Satisfaction." There are essentially two versions of this story given: In one, Mick Jagger puts in the tape, gets up and starts dancing to their version of the song, saying "I like it! I like it!" In the second version, the same scenario happens, but Devo's manager later reveals that the whole thing was staged and Mick was told by his people to give permission because it would make them more money.
- The band's early history appears to be a point of contention, particularly the involvement of Bob Lewis. Both Jerry Casale and Bob Lewis have occasionally gone on record saying the other is lying about who did what. For example, Lewis claims he was their manager before Warner Bros. gave them Eliot Roberts, while Jerry says that was untrue. Lewis sued the band over their image, concept, name, characters, etc. and offered a tape interview of Mark Mothersbaugh as evidence in court. It doesn't help that the first biography ever published on Devo (We Are Devo by David Giffels and Jade Dellinger) had a lot of input from Lewis and was denounced by Casale as "full of lies and bizarre, skewed, reality and just fantasies." A more recent unofficial biography by Kevin C. Smith (Recombo DNA), while taking a more neutral stance on the situation, doesn't dispute the information about Lewis provided in the first book and still credits him as co-founder of Devo before Mothersbaugh's involvement. The issue for Casale seems to rest on what technically made Devo who they were:
- Neil Young: He indirectly got the band onto Saturday Night Live, and they appeared in his film Human Highway. It was Devo who started calling Neil "Grandpa Granola".
- Nerd Glasses: Mark Mothersbaugh sports them, though his frames are actually quite stylish.
- Never Live It Down: Invoked by name in "Whip It".
- Nice Hat: Energy Domes. They claim the domes are "orgone collectors" that gather energy released out of the top of one's head and redirect it back into the body. Mark once said that they don't wear them all the time, but some people do and will probably live 150 years because of it.
- No Sympathy: "Pity You," "Jimmy."
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: Avoided in 1978 when Gerald Casale was the first guy to get laid as a direct result of the band.
- Non-Appearing Title: "S. I. B. (Swelling Itching Brain)" is a peculiar example, as the phrases "painful swelling brain" and "swelling itching pain" are constantly used in the studio version but never combined as in the title.
- Notable Music Videos: Mostly entering Surreal Music Video. (they were even parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic, and copied - specially because the director was Jerry Casale - by the Foo Fighters)
- Off-the-Shelf FX: In some of their early videos. And then there's their "mascot" character Booji Boy◊, who is effectively unnerving specifically because he's clearly a grown man in a creepily disproportionate store-bought rubber little boy mask speaking in a high pitched voice.
- It's worth noting Booji Boy represents the de-evolution of Man to Manchild, hence the high-pitched voice.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with the inclusion of both Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale, who as mentioned above, are referred to as Bob 1 and Bob 2 respectively. Also averted with the current lineup with Josh Freese and Josh Hager.
- People in Rubber Suits: Or more specifically, huge rubbers. Old photos◊ show band members covered in what looks to be human-body-sized condoms.
- Pep-Talk Song: Devo may seem pretty cynical, but once in a while, they urge you to "twist away the gates of steel!"
- On Freedom of Choice they were pretty generous with the pep talk songs, whether sarcastic or not: "Whip it", "Freedom of Choice", "Gates of Steel", and "That's Pep!"
- "Love Without Anger" could qualify as a pep talk song for people going through a breakup.
- Poe's Law: Rolling Stone once compared a Devo concert to a Nuremburg rally. Jerry admitted in an interview that seeing separate reviews dismissing them as "fascists" and "clowns" inspired the band to write Oh No! It's Devo to answer the question of what would an album made by "fascist clowns" would sound like.
"Triumph of the Will" embraces fascism as a satirical target without bothering to make it sound as if they disapprove.
- While this review of Duty Now for the Future fully acknowledges the trope:
- One of their T.V. appearances was cancelled when the host deemed the "Whip It" video to be offensive to women. Jerry explains in a 1981 interview that "Whip It" is in fact "the opposite of sexist." And while pointing at Mark's dorky suit, he remarks, "I mean, does this guy look like a sexist?"
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis
- Pop-Star Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh is a successful TV, movie and video game composer.
- Portmanteau: Huboon (from "human" and "baboon") in "Huboon Stomp" ("I'm a cross between a human and an ape") and "Soo Bawlz" ("She's got all the huboons crying her name").
- Stroft ("strong" and "soft") in "Pink Pussycat," a term borrowed from a 70s toilet paper commercial.
- Precision F-Strike: Subversive as they are, surprisingly Devo aren't a very cussy band. However, Mark does add an enthusiastic "everything is fucked up!" to their cover of "It Takes A Worried Man." Bob Mothersbaugh also says "ass" in the reimagined version of "Secret Agent Man."
- The demo and live versions of "Speed Racer" differ from the album version in the "Barbie doll" verse: "Lots of brains and I like to fuck!/(She's got brains and she likes to fuck!)"
- The reissued release of "New Traditionalists" features "Modern Life", which has the line "Time to pay up, for the fuck-up" three times.
- Proud to Be a Geek: Openly declared in "Through Being Cool." One of the first mainstream bands to make this trope a central part of their aesthetic.
- The Quincy Punk: Seen in the 1981 concert intro film, described as "the look of romance."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Most of their lyrics.
- Though, the track "If the Shoe Fits" off Jerry Casale's solo album is probably the most vitriolic thing the band's ever done. Sample lyrics: "Well I guess you wouldn't know / With your ugly twisted head / Shoved so far up your butt."
- Recurring Riff: A brief synth fanfare, heard in the spoken track "Nu-tra Speaks," General Boy's concert intro, and the song "Happy Guy."
- Revival: Releasing their first new album in 20 years after several years of almost exclusively being a touring act.
- Refrain from Assuming: Their biggest hit is just "Whip It," not "Whip It Good" in spite of the trope name.
- Ripped from the Headlines: "Auto Modown" was inspired by a 1971 incident in Youngstown, Ohio. "Space Junk" was also inspired by a news story, as Jerry notes on their live concert of the Q&A album:Here's a song ripped straight from the headlines of the Akron Beacon Journal in 1975.
- Running Gag: They kept referring to "Recombo DNA labs," saying they hoped to get one of their own. They even had a song called "Recombo DNA."
- "Sesame Street" Cred: Devo performed "Watch Us Work It" on one episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!. Which is really no surprise: Mark Mothersbaugh is Gabbaland's resident sketch artist.
- The '70s
- Self-Deprecation: The title of Oh No! It's Devo was apparently meant in this spirit. When asked about the title, Mark Mothersbaugh once said "there are many people out there who, when they hear we're around again or have one more album coming out, that is their reaction".
- Sell-Out: Devo often likes to point out that they avoided the usual hypocrisy contemporary punk bands engaged in, i.e. preaching anarchy and anti-capital/corporatism in their lyrics, yet ending up selling out by singing up with the music labels, as selling out was always a part of the band's de-evolutionary mission statement.
- Sensory Abuse: The high-frequency noise of "U Got Me Bugged," obviously from the Hardcore Devo years.
- Sex Is Good: "When We Do It," among others.
- The Barbie Doll character in "Speed Racer": "I'm a Barbie Doll but I've got brains!/I've got brains and I like sex!"
- Shaped Like Itself: "With a mind that's satisfied / The satisfied mind is satisfied."
- "What we do is what we do," and by the same token, "I must do what I must do."
- Significant Anagram: Devo would sometimes perform their own warm-up act as "Dove (The Band of Love)", a parody of Christian Rock bands.
Devolution was a combination of a Wonder Woman comic book and the movie lsland of Lost Souls. [...] That was various things Id been thinking about devolution, of going ahead to go back, things falling apart, entropy. It grabbed every piece of information and gave it some kind of cohesive presence- it was a package. Just as our music and our identity exist as technique rather than a style.—Jerry Casale, 1978
- The song "Uncontrollable Urge" on their first album begins with the riff from The Beatles hit "I Want To Hold Your Hand", and the main riff in the song is from "Misty Mountain Hop" by Led Zeppelin.
- The main riff of "Praying Hands" seems to be a shout-out to the surf tune "Wipeout"; likewise is the drumroll in "Clockout".
- The "oohs" in "Mongoloid" are likely a shout-out to the "aahs" in The Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout."
- Then there are further Beatles references in "The 4th Dimension", which quotes the riff from "Day Tripper" wholesale in the instrumental bridge and "Some Things Never Change", which borrows the opening lyrics from "A Day in the Life".
- "U Got Me Bugged" supposedly references a song by The Buggs, whose record Meet The Buggs was bought by a young Mark Mothersbaugh mistaking them for The Beatles.
- The middle of "Soo Bawlz" has the countoff, "One, two, three four, tell the people what she wore!" lifted straight from Brian Hyland's "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini."
- Their cover of Bob Dylan's, "Gotta Serve Somebody" borrows its guitar riff from James Chance & The Contortions "Contort Yourself".
- "Devo Corporate Anthem" and its accompanying video is a shout-out to the 1975 film Rollerball.
- In addition to being the band's theme song, "Jocko Homo" is both a shout-out to Island of Lost Souls (a movie adaptation of H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau) and a bizarre creationist pamphlet by B. H. Shadduck called Jocko-Homo Heavenbound. Said pamphlet was also the source of four out of the five rules of the Devolutionary Oath.
- The Devo concept itself appears to have taken an issue of Wonder Woman as one of its primary sources.
- Their trademark "energy domes" are a shout-out to Wilhelm Reich.
- The lyrics to "Space Girl Blues" were inspired by an issue of DC's Mystery in Space.
- "Baby Talkin' Bitches" transforms the children's poem "Egg Thoughts" ("I do not like the way you slide/I do not like your soft inside...") from Russell Hoban's Bread and Jam for Frances into a "Reason You Suck" Speech for the Brainless Beauty.
- The lyrics of "That's Pep!" where swiped from a poem written by Grace Bostwick around 1919 for American Magazine (re-published in the May 1924 edition of Ohio State Engineer), and then transformed by the band's arrangement into massive Sarcasm Mode.
- In "Are You Experienced?" Bob 1 plays a backwards guitar solo which is the main riff from another Jimi Hendrix song, "Third Stone From the Sun" - a song which Jimi recorded backwards. This gives way to another mini-shout out, since the drums in Devo's version are recorded backwards.
- "The Shadow" has references to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Shadow serials ("Who knows what lurks in the hearts of man?"), and T. S. Eliot's "The Hollow Man".
- They received one as Booji Boy was shown among the cards scrolling at the beginning of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series's 57th episode.
- Booji Boy's suit seen during the guitar solo in the "Beautiful World" video was inspired by Spike Jones.
- Safe, Sane, and Consensual: BDSM is glorified in the music video for "Whip It" and the album covers of Hardcore Devo.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: "Throw Money at the Problem"Throw money at the problem
(Make it go away)
Throw money at the problem
(Die another day)
- Siamese Twin Songs: Several:
- "Gut Feeling" and "Slap Your Mammy" on "Q: We Are Not Men A: We Are Devo". Some C Ds separate the tracks, and some don't.
- "Timing X" and "Soo Bawlz" on a regular basis in mid-late 70s live performances - when it came to releasing them on their second album "Duty Now For The Future" in 1979, the latter was inexplicably relegated to a b-side, so "Timing X" is this with "Wiggly World" instead. Later, on "Greatest Misses", they mixed it into "Space Junk".
- "Smart Patrol/Mr DNA" on "Duty Now For The Future". So good is the fusion that's hard to imagine that in its earliest days, "Smart Patrol" was performed on its own.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Good luck making out any lyrics of "Be Stiff" other than the title without a lyric sheet.
- Same goes for "U Got Me Bugged" (the version without re-dubbed vocals). The robotic effect on Booji's Boy's voice and general lo-finess renders the song completely unintelligible.
- Stalker with a Crush: "Strange Pursuit" ("Always kept your distance when you felt my presence near you," "Fly in retreat I would follow without shame")
- Owing to the author of the lyrics, "I Desire."
- Surreal Music Video: Many of their videos.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Their cover of "Secret Agent Man" was sung by guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh, because he was the most "everyman-looking" member of the band.
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: Jerry and Mark were prone to playing off each other like this in interviews, with Jerry usually providing most of the serious commentary on the devolved state of our world and Mark occasionally interjecting non-sequiturs designed to throw off the interviewers (such as "if the spud fits, wear it.")
- Stylistic Suck: One of their demos, "Midget", is used in The Men Who Make the Music as a single by the fictional sell-out group Parcheesi. Rod Rooter asks Devo why they can't cut stuff like that, to which Bob 1 responds, "Well, I guess we like ideas."
- Take That!: After being propelled into mainstream popularity by "Whip It", the opening track on their next album was called "Through Being Cool".
- Devo almost never mentions their satirical targets by name, but made an exception for Jim and Tammy Bakker in "The Shadow." Jim was a televangelist involved in a sex scandal and accounting fraud charges at the time.Reverend Jimmy and Tammy Belle,
Big-time pumpers with a story to sell.
- Jerry Casale's solo project, Jihad Jerry and the Evildoers, contains a lot of slams on the Bush era, particularly in "If the Shoe Fits" ("Well, I guess you wouldn't know/With your boots stuck in the mud/And your cowboy brains glued shut").
- Devo also loved sticking it to their corporate masters via the character of Rod Rooter, an executive for Big Entertainment who totally didn't get it.
- A song entitled "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed)" was released in August 2012, with lyrics aimed at Mitt Romney.
- Devo almost never mentions their satirical targets by name, but made an exception for Jim and Tammy Bakker in "The Shadow." Jim was a televangelist involved in a sex scandal and accounting fraud charges at the time.
- Textless Album Cover: Something For Everybody.
- They Killed Kenny Again: Booji Boy has met many a gruesome end, including electrocution, having his head crushed in a machine, and being beheaded by Osama bin Laden, but he always manages to come back.
- Those Two Guys: Mark and Jerry are frequently interviewed together.
- Three-Dimensional Episode: The disastrous "3-Devo" pay-per-view concert in 1982. Not only did their backing track go out of sync with their rear-projected film, the lighting made the 3-D effects ineffective. Good job, the executive who thought this up!
- Uncommon Time: Parts of "Jocko Homo" are in 7/8. The verses of "Blockhead" are in 11/8.
- Unusual Euphemism: "I need your mechanism" in "Space Girl Blues".
- Vocal Tag Team: Mark and Jerry. The Bobs usually provided backing vocals.
- Wham Line: "It's a beautiful world for you...It's not for me."
- Whip It Good: Trope Namer.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Frequently used in song titles: "Soo Bawlz," "Can U Take It?," "U Got Me Bugged," "The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize," "Girl U Want," "Luv-Luv," "Sexi Luv," "A Change is Gonna Cum," "Dawghaus," "Luv & Such."
- Their cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" has been variously spelled "Are U" and "R U."
- You Are Number 6: Bob 1 and Bob 2.
- Following the passing of Bob 2, Devo now has Josh 1 (Josh Freese), and Josh 2 (Josh Hager)
1. Wear gaudy colors or avoid display
2. Lay a million eggs or give birth to one
3. The fittest shall survive yet the unfit may live
4. Be like your ancestors or be different
5. We must repeat