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YMMV / Devo

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Is "Huboon Stomp" about an ordinary man Maddened Into Misanthropy by the petty injustice of the world or a depraved, subhuman rapist who blames everybody but himself for his problems?
  • Anvilicious: As many critics have commented on, their messages started becoming noticeably more explicit around New Traditionalists ("Beautiful World" for example).
  • Audience-Alienating Era: The late 80s. And not just because Jerry had a mullet. Devo's Enigma Records albums - Total Devo and Smooth Noodle Maps - are the glossiest, most conventionally mainstream pop albums the band have ever made, and diehard Spuds tend to agree that it's to the band's detriment. Especially Total Devo, which bears the brunt of the fandom's rejection and is often considered the band's low point. These albums were commercial failures, and were borderline Canon Discontinuity for years.
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  • Award Snub: The band has never won a Grammy and has yet to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame despite multiple nominations.
  • Broken Base: It's generally agreed on that Devo lost a certain flair as the 80s went on, but when it happened is up for debate. For some it was right after their moment in the spotlight, 1980's Freedom Of Choice, while for others it was by the time of the 1984 commercial bomb, Shout (Gerald Casale himself is in this camp), and for others it was their Enigma Records years. Their earlier New Wave material vs their Synth-Pop stuff is a bit divisive in and of itself, and it's fair to say that how you take to Devo's discography may depend on your predilection for Synth-Pop as a whole. Shout itself has a minor broken base; see Cult Classic below.
  • Casting Gag: In the video for "Jocko Homo", Booji Boy refers to General Boy as "dad". General and Booji were of course played by real life father and son, Robert and Mark Mothersbaugh, respectively.
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  • Creepy Awesome: The Hardcore incarnation of the band. In the 1970s, Devo had a much more experimental (read: creepy) approach, though they were no less satirical, and their sense of humor was even darker. The madness they were capable of could rival The Residents.
  • Cult Classic: It could feasibly be argued that Devo's whole body of work falls under this trope, since aside from "Whip It," they never truly became chart-topping A-listers, yet their influence in new wave and synth-pop is palpable, and a very devoted (pardon the Pun) fandom has followed the boys for many years. However, on a far more obscure level, there's Shout, the commercial failure that led to Devo being dropped from Warner Brothers. Critics raked it over the coals for being overproduced and undistinguished, and Gerald Casale is openly unhappy with it. Yet there are a small contingent of Devo fans who really like Shout specifically because of how processed and synthesized it is.
  • Ending Fatigue: Devo usually preferred a more succinct approach, but there are exceptions:
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    • The Recombo DNA demo compilation ends with an 18-minute medley, "Somewhere With DEVO." It makes an appearance on the live album Now It Can Be Told: Devo Live At The Palace 12/9/88, trimmed down to 11 minutes.
    • The 30 minute "Jocko Homo" performances the band used to do in the 70s to troll the audience. It worked.
  • Epic Riff: "Whip It," "Be Stiff", "Space Junk," "Girl U Want" and "Gut Feeling," to name a few.
  • Face of the Band: It started as Jerry's band, but vocalist Mark easily became the face of Devo for many. Jerry, however, still addresses crowds most of the time during live shows.
  • Fandom Rivalry: There will always be a rivalry between fans of Devo and fans of Oingo Boingo. Likewise, there's also a rivalry between fans of Mark Mothersbaugh and fans of Danny Elfman over who is the better composer.
    • There are also certain fans of The Residents whose nickname for Devo is "Residents Lite".
  • Fan Nickname:
  • First Installment Wins: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! frequently tops the ratings and favourite lists of fans and reviewers; along with Freedom of Choice it is considered their most successful album.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • David Bowie liked them enough to get Brian Eno to produce their debut album, so you can bet his fans also respect Devo.
    • Neil Young was the first major artist to work with the band, having been inspired by them to write "Hey Hey My My" and even having them appear in his film Human Highway all before they even recorded their first album. All of this will have no doubt lead to Neil's fans admiring Devo as well.note 
    • An overlap with Talking Heads fans also exists, given that the two bands were the biggest and most prominent members of the American side of the otherwise British-dominated Post-Punk movement. Devo's sampling of "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)" for the single version of "Disco Dancer" and Mark & Jerry's collaboration with Byrne on his solo song "Wicked Little Doll" additionally factor into the overlap.
    • There's also an overlap with Gary Numan's fans, as both acts are synthesizer-heavy new wave acts that are perceived as one hit wonders (in the U.S. in Numan's case) who have devoted cult followings and have influenced lots of musicians.
    • Devo fans also tend to like The Residents, another avant-garde electronic band. Both acts shared management at one point.
  • Genius Bonus:
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • The band has a huge following in Australia.
    • Before they signed with Warner (Bros.) Records and had a hit with "Whip It" in the U.S., several of their independent singles charted in the U.K. and they were a highly anticipated band in Europe and Australia. It likely helps that these places were ahead of the U.S. in the acceptance of music video as a promotional tool in the pre-MTV days. In fact, the easiest Devo singles to find in the UK are by far those from the period of their first and second albums, whereas it is the opposite way round in the US. At the time, the UK got the exclusive b-sides, "Penetration In The Centerfold", the rerecording of "Social Fools" and "Soo Bawls". "Be Stiff" was released by Stiff Records prior to the Warner/Virgin deal and became the label's unofficial anthem. This might be due to the band's style resonating with what was going on in that country at the time, as New Wave Music and Synth-Pop initially had a stronger following over there than in the U.S.
    • There was a big following in Japan too, the most notable result of which was the inspiration of Polysics.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Their very name and idea becomes harsher in hindsight a lot. The name stands for "de-evolution" and the idea that humanity has reached the peak of evolution and now we're going to de-evolve into monkeys. While we might not de-evolve, scientists have said we're pretty much not going to get any smarter than we are now. See, this video for an explanation given by an expert.
    • In their 1980 music video, for Whip It the band performs with turtlenecks over their faces. Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh later caught COVID19 and it nearly killed him.
    • In this 1981 interview, when questioned about the JFK-inspired New Tradionalists plastic hairdo, Mark replies "Chemotherapy, Jack." Bob 2 died of heart failure while undergoing treatment for cancer. Alan Myers also died of cancer.
    • In the music video / Human Highway segment for "Worried Man", skulls are rotoscoped onto the faces of Alan and Bob 2. (Also Bob 1, but he's still alive.)
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In an amusing instance of Technology Marches On, the video compilation The Complete Truth About De-evolution was originally released on LaserDisc and featured interstitials from a 1984 film they'd made with Pioneer advertising their LaserDisc technology. When Rhino Records ported The Complete Truth to DVD, they made the curious decision to keep the LaserDisc ads in place. Especially ironic is Jerry's line, "The technology that simply won't wear out!". The format turned out to be highly susceptible to "laser rot", with a number of faulty discs becoming unplayable due to the oxidation of the aluminum layer. Strangely enough, the DVD was in some places worse off than the LaserDisc - the galleries, for instance, require you to pause your DVD player and go frame-by-frame, or else you will see a barrage of images zip by in a matter of seconds. It wasn't until 2014 when MVD re-released The Complete Truth that some of these quirks were corrected and the LaserDisc ads were put aside as a bonus feature.
    • In the "Jocko Homo" video, Mark Mothersbaugh looks almost exactly like the Eleventh Doctor in his bow tie, glasses, hair and mannerisms.
    • In "Speed Racer" the pirate's Evil Laugh sounds a lot like Okabe Rintaro's Hyouin Kyouma persona in Steins;Gate.
  • Misattributed Song: A lot of "quirky" New Wave Music songs are attributed to the band. These include "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo and "Pop Muzik" by M. The most notable one is definitely "Dare To Be Stupid" by "Weird Al" Yankovic which is a spot-on parody of their work, even down to the video. Mark Mothersbaugh thought it was so good that he was jealous of Yankovic for coming up with it.
  • Narm Charm: There's a very oddball, campy aspect to many of Devo's songs and videos, as if really cynical aliens poorly disguised themselves as humans and formed a rock band. Not that fans would have them any other way.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The two Hardcore Devo compilations. As mentioned above, they're demos from 1974 to 1977, and they are some seriously creepy sounding stuff ("U Got Me Bugged" in particular seems to call forward to the disturbing electronic environments of early industrial music).
    • The robotic voice on "Mechanical Man" is just a little bit terrifying. Then you add the discordant music.
      • Me feel swell. Me work well. Me want what you got.
    • The "Beautiful World" video. Plenty of music videos include mushroom clouds for shock effect, but something about the imagery of a crying, starving child and a '50s cartoon clip about a man suffering from radiation poisoning (from a Public Service Announcement about fallout) is singularly unnerving.
  • Older Than They Think: Many of the band's songs were written and demoed before they were signed to a record label. You can hear some of those demos on the Hardcore albums.
    • Also, the intro video they used on their 1981 New Traditionalists tour features someone wearing a jacket saying "Don't Shoot, I'm A Man" on it, which much later became the title of a song on their album Something For Everybody.
    • "Going Under" started in 1974 as a sludgey guitar demo called "All Of Us", of which two demos were made. As one of the band's earliest songs, the band pretended it was a standard, and reworked it into a Booji Boy led lounge track called "Softcore Mutations" (stated on the track to be performed by The Cummerbunds). "Softcore Mutations" was heavily reworked into an electronic influenced track and played live on their 1979 tour, but not used on either "Duty Now For The Future" or "Freedom Of Choice". This tour version of "Softcore Mutations" was made slightly more electronic and faster paced, and finally studio recorded for New Traditionalists as "Going Under" in 1981. "Going Under" pretty much immediately became a live staple and is beloved by fans. Its age can actually be traced from the way the lyrics are about sex, which was a common feature in their early songs but later gave way to being about the themes of devolution.
    • "Race Of Doom" was based on a song of the same name from 1975, although aside from the repeated chant it is totally different. The demo of "Race Of Doom" has been partly leaked but the full track has not.
    • While Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" may have been the first music video to have computer-animated characters, it was not the first music video to use CGI. That would be "Peek-a-Boo," which Devo released three years earlier.
  • Refrain from Assuming: Their biggest hit is just "Whip It," not "Whip It Good" in spite of the trope name.
  • Seasonal Rot: The band's transition into quirky synth-pop that worked so well on Freedom Of Choice wound up becoming increasingly generic and straightforward within a few years, and whilst New Traditionalists and Oh No Its Devo were well received, the band went too far with 1984's Shout, which was a critical and commercial failure, and cost them their Warner Brothers deal. The failed comeback album on Enigma Records, Total Devo, only made things worse, and the band, needless to say, don't play anything from those albums anymore (nor anything from the mostly ignored Smooth Noodle Maps).
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • When they first appeared, Devo's cynicism was genuinely shocking, with the band receiving hostile reactions from the music press over it. The band's "de-evolution" stance was a Take That! against the Wide-Eyed Idealism of the '60s and early '70s.
    • Sonically, in many ways, as New Wave Music, pop music and even R&B caught up with the radical-for-1977, synthesized, robotic sound of Devo, it became so commonplace by the mid-1980's that many songs from other acts of the era were mistaken for Devo songs.
  • Signature Song: To the mainstream, "Whip It." To more diehard spuds, "Jocko Homo."
  • So Bad, It's Good:
    • The only reason Devo agreed to the Dev2.0 concept in the first place was because of how ridiculous it was.
      Jerry Casale: "You went beyond getting mad to just like going, 'This is proof of devolution. This is it.' We thought it was really funny."
    • The band has fallen back on the "proof of de-evolution" line of reasoning more than once, particularly in reference to the Seasonal Rot mentioned above. They ultimately mused that even Devo is not immune to the effects of de-evolution— decay was inevitable, according to their genetic imperative— and life marched on.
  • Sophomore Slump: Duty Now For the Future is often considered an underrated fan favourite for devoted spuds, but commercially and critically it wasn't quite as successful as Are We Not Men? or Freedom of Choice. Members of the band have expressed disappointment in the recording process and the final sound of Duty Now. Jerry claims that there was too much second-guessing involved when it came to recording their second album - they scrapped original plans for the album by writing some new material which wasn't road-tested and hadn't had time to cook. He also feels that Ken Scott's production "neutered" songs like "Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA".
  • Special Effect Failure: The Chroma Key in their early videos. Especially noticeable in "The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize".
    • "Freedom of Choice" has an impressive-for-the-time stop motion sequence with chocolate miniature donuts moving the the beat of the song... which is arguably ruined when one of the donuts leaves a visible trail of frosting on the backdrop. Jerry admitted he noticed the mistake but decided to just Throw It In because the scene was time-consuming to film and they didn't have time to attempt a re-take, also jokingly calling the chocolate stain a "skid mark".
  • Squick:
    • The scene with Rod and Donut Rooter on the Complete Truth About De-evolution DVD, with the implication of Parental Incest, is really uncomfortable to watch.
    • The box of worms in the "Love Without Anger" video.
  • Sweet Dreams Fuel: Some of E-Z Listening Disc, a set of Muzak versions of Devo standards, is this. That is, when it's not So Bad, It's Good.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • "No Place Like Home" (from Something for Everybody) is easily their most poignant song, a realistic look at how utterly small the human race is in the grand scheme of things, and how the Earth will reassert itself long after we're all extinct... that is, if we don't destroy it first out of our own greed.
    • "Beautiful World" too - buried in the poppiest song off New Traditionalists is complete disillusionment with humanity and its material possessions. It's a beautiful world... for you.
  • Ugly Cute: Booji Boi! It's Mark Mothersbaugh in a weird-looking baby mask, speaking and singing in a high voice.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Devo, being the de-evolution band, would frequently invoke genetics and mutations in their music, and sometimes even disability, such as "Mongoloid"— a term you would not use to describe a disabled person today. In the case of "Mongoloid", the theme of the song is actually quite progressive for the day— the titular character has a job and pays the bills and his friends don't treat him any differently... but the joke is derived from the idea that the TV and Media has made people stupid. It's probably worthy of note that "mutants," "beautiful mutants" and "mutations" were treated as terms of endearment for their listeners, and "Mongoloid" is a sympathetic song that's clearly meant to evoke a "working class hero" image.
    • The "Barbie doll" part of the song "Speed Racer" can come across as a bit sexist these days.
    • Considering his appearance and the way Jerry gave him a stereotypical Oriental accent in "Somewhere With Devo" where he can be heard around the 3:35 minute mark, it's no surprise that the character of the Chinaman wasn't used much after the video for "Secret Agent Man" where he made his only physical appearance in this one shot. The glasses with the fake slant eyes removed were used for Mark's appearance on the cover of Oh No! It's Devo.
    • "Jimmy". The whole concept of not caring for a Jerkass who ended up in a wheelchair might be seen as "even more asshole-ish" in modern times.
    • This set of lyrics for "Throw Money At The Problem" might be seen as fat shaming as of late:
    Your eyes are bigger than your belly,
    So far, when you look down,
    You can't even see the ground,
    Where X marks the spot, of the end game!
  • Vindicated by History: Or as synth-pop outfit The Attery Squash put it, "Devo Was Right About Everything."note  It says a lot that Devo are one of the rare One Hit Wonders to get multiple Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame nominations, and it's generally accepted today that the band were ahead of their time, and deserve more than to be remembered for one novelty hit.
  • Wasted Song: "Watch Us Work It" was recorded for a commercial, got great fan response, then was only a limited single and not included on "Something For Everybody" (though it was a bonus track). Many fans say it is one of their catchiest songs.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: The band probably got this back in their heyday. Imagine parents taking their families to their concerts, only to be shocked by songs such as "Speed Racer" (which has a pirate that likes to steal and kill, and the "explicit version" has the Barbie doll saying the F word) and "Planet Earth" (which mentions getting drunk in local bars). To put the point even further, there have been reports of Spuds, Devotees, and Beautiful Mutants taking their children to the band's concerts. It also doesn't help that Mark Mothersbaugh has worked on many kid-friendly works such as Yo Gabba Gabba! and The LEGO Movie.
    • "Beautiful World" was featured on the Starbucks Coffee-exclusive kids compilation CD Music For Little Hipsters (yes, that's really the name of it). The music video features footage of wars, along with footage of kids starving in poor countries. Someone at Rhino or Starbucks should have really checked the lyrics for the lines "It's not for me!" and "Not me!"
    • Devo 2.0 (aka DEV2.0) takes the stand, with a bowdlerized version of an anti-George Bush song from Jerry's solo project Jihad Jerry & The Evildoers. They also were tied into several Disney-oriented projects, most notably covering Annette Funicello's "The Monkey's Uncle" for a Disneymania CD.
  • Win Back the Crowd:
    • Their disappointing output in the late 80s and early 90s dwindled their fanbase down to only the most hardcore, but then they reemerged in the mid-90s as a nostalgia act (mostly playing their hits from 1978-1980) to great fan response, leading to Devo becoming a reliable touring band and their influence growing ever since.
    • Something For Everybody from 2010 is widely considered, at the very least, a perfectly acceptable comeback, meeting good reviews from critics and a good reception from longtime fans.

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