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Music / Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

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Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is the 1978 debut album by Devo. It's best known for its iconic title and the band's reworking of The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" that The Stones described as better than the original in legend. While musically a guitar-based Post-Punk/New Wave album, it was also an early example of Punk-era artists using synthesizers as textural instruments, and the band's following albums would focus more on electronics as they devolved into New Wave Music and Synth-Pop.

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Tracklist

Side One

  1. "Uncontrollable Urge" (3:09)
  2. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (2:40)
  3. "Praying Hands" (2:47)
  4. "Space Junk" (2:14)
  5. "Mongoloid" (3:44)
  6. "Jocko Homo" (3:40)

Side Two

  1. "Too Much Paranoias" (1:57)
  2. "Gut Feeling" (4:04)
  3. "(Slap Your Mammy)" (0:51)note 
  4. "Come Back Jonee" (3:47)
  5. "Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')" (2:40)
  6. "Shrivel-Up" (3:05)

One trope-list too many:

  • Album Title Drop: "Jocko Homo"
    Are we not men?
    We are Devo!
  • Alliterative Title: "Uncontrollable Urge"
  • Anti-Love Song: "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!
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  • Artistic License – Biology: Since we're not mollusks, no one has seriously suggested that we evolved from snails, as "Jocko Homo" would have it.
  • Broken Record: Mark Mothersbaugh does a very rapid one in their cover of "Satisfaction": "Tell me, baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby-baby..." etc.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Satisfaction" builds on the sexual frustration of the original and becomes a tense rant about consumerism.
  • Cover Version: The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction".
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Devo is usually quite blatant about this. Certain entendres can be found in "Praying Hands" and "Uncontrollable Urge".
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover is an airbrushed picture of the golf player Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodríguez morphing his face together with those of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: The beginning of "Gut Feeling" lasts 2:03—almost half the entire song!
  • Grief Song: "Come Back Jonee," a tribute to John F. Kennedy.
  • Humans Are Bastards: "Jocko Homo" implies that mankind is not evolving but rather devolving.
  • "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."
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: "Mongoloid" is a deconstruction. Yes, a mentally impaired man is able to lead a happy, "normal" life, but that's because beyond his having a hat and a job, no one is paying attention.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Mongoloid" wasn't as offensive a term in 1978 as it is now, but it was still an outdated and questionable term for a person with Down's Syndrome.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: One interpretation of "Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')".
  • Love Hurts: "Gut Feeling", where the protagonist is fed up with being mistreated in the relationship.
  • Lyric Swap: In "Jocko Homo", 'Are we not men?' occasionally gets swapped with 'Are we not pins?'
  • One-Word Title: "Mongoloid".
  • Product Placement: "Too Much Paranoias":
    I think I got a Big Mac attack
  • Properly Paranoid: "Too Much Paranoias":
    There's too much paranoias
    There's too much paranoias
    My momma's afraid to tell me the things she's afraid of
  • Questioning Title?: The album title.
  • Record Producer: Brian Eno. This was one of Eno's hat trick of notable production credits in 1978, along with Talking Heads' sophomore release More Songs About Buildings and Food and the four-artist No New York compilation. Notably, however, Devo resisted Eno's attempts to alter the way the music on the album sounded, preferring to stick to the arrangements on the original demos, much to Eno's irritation. Mark Mothersbaugh later went on to regret this, noting that Eno's attempted synthesizer contributions were actually pretty "cool" yet were only used on a few songs at most. David Bowie also provided additional production contributions, remixing most of the album's tracks, but remained uncredited. He also provided backing vocals to much of the songs on the album, but like most of Eno's contributions, these went unused as well. Mothersbaugh still has the original master recordings of Bowie and Eno's unused parts on-hand, so time will tell if these will ever get used in a later remix of the album or not.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Uncontrollable Urge" begins with the riff from The Beatles' "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" is a shout-out to the surf tune "Wipeout", as is the drumroll in "Clockout" from their following album, Duty Now for the Future.
    • The "oohs" in "Mongoloid" are a shout-out to the "aahs" in The Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout" from Please Please Me.
    • 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 cover image was inspired by golfer Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodriguez, although it was altered because the label was nervous about offending him. When the label finally showed him the cover, he was more offended that it looked nothing like him.
    • "Weird Al" Yankovic namedropped some of the lyrics of "Jocko Homo" in "Polkas on 45".
    • "Come Back Johnny" references "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry:
    Oh come back, Johnny, Johnny B. Goode
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Gut Feeling" and "(Slap Your Mammy)" were not listed as separate tracks until the CD release, as they fade right into each other and the latter functions as an extended coda to the former.
  • Singer Name Drop: The band's name is namedropped during "Jocko Homo"
    We are Devo!
  • Stealth Insult: The lyrics of "Mongoloid", where a man with Down Syndrome is able to live a happy life, and "normal" society is too stupid to notice.
  • Uncommon Time: Parts of "Jocko Homo" are in 7/8. Original Devo drummer Alan Myers was valued for his ability to keep unusual time signatures, owing to his jazz background.
    • "Gut Feeling" is in 4/4, but with a five-bar hypermeasure.
  • Variant Cover: European editions used a still from Devo's short film, The Truth About De-Evolution, for the cover.

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