Recently Rated Movies #51: Are We Not Men?

Devo: The Complete Truth About De-Evolution
Directors: Chuck Statler, Gerald Casale, various // Rhino, 2004 [DVD]
Cinema 4 Rating: 7

Br'er Otis will tell you with great pride of the moment when my young nephew Aerin, then only five years old, looked up from his pile of toys and childhood ephemera and declared, "You know what, Poppa? I love Devo." Clearly, when you add his youthful devotion (no pun intended) to the Clash, the boy is being raised in the right environment. Aerin's joy in being a spud boy has also inspired me to concentrate on playing catch up with the band over the last year or so. Having the first five albums on vinyl would help me in that effort, except that my LPs are stuck in Idaho, as is my turntable. I was lucky in that I had two of those records on CD, but some of my favorite songs were on the albums far out of my reach. Even getting a greatest hits collection didn't help much, so I am going to have to do some digging to get the rest. Or wait until my stuff gets here in September. (My dad and I are roadtripping it via U-Haul. A very full U-haul...)

So, my De-Vival had to consist of listening to about 30 songs over and over and over and over (talk about jerking back and forth)... and renting this video collection a couple of times. I will be honest and tell you that visually, the videos on this collection are going to look tremendously cheesy to a modern eye, especially someone not familiar with the style or the band. They definitely hearken back to the pre-MTV days of music videos, but in Devo's case, they were most certainly the pioneers in this realm, and anyone into the corporation even just one song beyond Whip It are going to love this. For me, who sincerely accepts Devo's assertion that all humanoid civilization is destined to regress to a primordial state, it was a great way to catch up with some material that I haven't seen in over twenty years (in some cases), including their amazing introductory film, The Truth About De-Evolution, which I believe that I saw back in the day on something like The Midnight Special. (I certainly saw it on Night Flight on USA in the '80s, but I remember seeing it before that show.) This Booji Boy never had it so good (and I can actually use that term, for those of you who know my nickname) as when he dug back into these archives. But while the band exists to this day, and even have been on and off the tour circuit recently, their recording career pretty much died in 1990 after an unhealthy bout with Enigma Records. On the commentary track by founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, they sound absolutely fired up when discussing this period, and while the disc starts out as fun and games (even while sharply deriding the culture about them), this attitude definitely runs into its own form of devolution the farther along the videos get. It certainly colors the experience in some rather dark hues.

Since I watched this disc, the Spud Boys have been played nearly nonstop on my iPod. And now, I have the missing trio of the those first five albums lined up on Amazon. It seems to me I looked on there a couple of years ago for New Traditionalists, but they only had it as a dual-package (two LPs crammed hideously onto one CD) with Duty Now for the Future. Since I have messed with discs of such possibly sinister quality in the past, I decided to skip on the purchase, and even checked eBay to locate full single CDs of the albums. Now, apparently the albums are available quite readily on Amazon, and though I never heard they were being reissued (they certainly do not appear to have any extra tracks in the modern tradition of re-releasing remastered versions of albums), I for one will not be missing out on this opportunity. If it will stop my own regression into what much of the world has already achieved, it is a step that I must take.

It's a good thing we got to Aerin at an early age...


Mark Otis said…
Sorry, but this is a knee jerk reaction, all right: your nephew's name is spelled "Aerin"....
Rik Tod said…
My excuses are:

1) Writing at 5 in the morning;
2) Keeping a constant daily correspondence going with a friend who spells his name the traditional Biblical way;
and 3) Being a dumb-ass.

Sorry, M'Otis. I am a horrid uncle.


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