Punk was on the rise in the seventies and Akron had a flamboyant punk/new wave scene during that decade. The band was formed in seventy two, by two sets of brainy brothers, with the entertaining theme of the de-evolution of mankind. They struggled for several years to get noticed by the record companies. A demo tape of this material was sent to some influential people in the British music industry. Eventually the band was flown to Germany, to have their material recorded by producer Brian Enos. They were soon able to sign a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records. The album art depicts a golfer posing in front of a giant golf ball, to symbolize a status of the sophisticated elite. In an attempt to differentiate themselves from the image of an idiotic punk band. How far do they take this theme of de-evolution? This debut album was released two months after The Car's debut release. So how does this compare to that hit album?
Co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh has been the band's main lead singer since seventy two. He's got a nerdy yet careless approach. The lead vocals seem to play the idiot character, while the back up vocals usually play the straight character. Uncontrollable Urge starts out with upbeat guitar strumming with a sixties style melody, utilizing sort of a humorous approach like Surfin' Bird by the Trashmen. The lyrics rapidly repeat the word "yeah" twelve times and then that sequence is done twice. "Got an urge, got a surge and it's out of control." The music slows down and the back up vocals refrain with "he's got an uncontrollable urge, I've got an uncontrollable urge." The drums are beaten Live
ly with catchy patterns. The synthesizer music is played with a low profile, but occasionally adds some pizazz by ripping out a high note or two.
The drummer was the one line up position that wasn't held by the Mothersbaugh or Casale brothers. Alan Myers was the third drummer to occupy this position and the one who stuck with it the longest. He isn't overly forceful. Yet he provides a strong presence with melodic beat patterns and occasional drum rolls. Praying Mantis starts with a fast guitar melody, which is strikingly similar to the classic sixties song "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris. That is adjoined by some distorted keyboard music, sounding as crazy as an alien space ship. The bass plays a fast paced, yet catchy rhythm, while the snare drums slash in with hard beats. The lyrics say "you got both hands, you've got praying hands." Then a few stanzas later: "wash your hands three times a day, always do what your mom and dad say. Brush your teeth the following way, wash your hands three times a day."
Mark Mothersbaugh is one of the chief songwriters for the band, contributing the most to these compositional schemes. He also does a wonderful job with the synthesizer and keyboards, by adding a sci-fi/hi-fi ambiance to the odd textures. Sometimes he takes a song over with the command of an experienced accordion player, yet moves it like a commander of a space ship. Jocko Homo begins with a fast choppy rhythm, sounding sort of like a bizarre twist of circus music. The bass plays a fast lick, which is rapidly followed by a strange four note keyboard melody. "We're pinheads now, we are not whole. We're pinheads all, joko homo." The lyrics seem to be a jocular reversal of Darwin's theory of evolution.
features two guitarists and they are handled by the Bobs. Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob 1) is the lead guitarist and Bob Casale (Bob 2) is the rhythm guitarist. The music is always coordinated with one guitar played with distortion and the other one played with an undistorted natural sound. Too Much Paranoias suddenly starts up with some awesome guitar shredding that would make most thrash bands proud. An atmosphere of madness is hailed by a Shout
ing lunatic and deep thumping bass notes. The synthesizer makes monstrous noises, like an annoyed dinosaur. The lyrics seem to be a series of short parodies of seventies TV commercials, which is somehow connected to an issue of paranoia. There is a lot of aggressive action packed into this two minute song.
Co-founder Gerald Casale is the bassist and often gets overshadowed by the interesting presentations of the other performers. Sometimes it becomes an integral part of the instrumentation. Gerald designed Devo
's distinctive costumes and occasionally sings the lead vocals. Shrivel Up starts with a synthesized percussion melody, which sounds similar to a ticking timer and a leaky faucet. There is casual guitar strumming, with a bass rhythm played like a swing dance song. The rhythm guitar plays funny distorted riffs, while the synthesizer makes sound effects like the echoes of fluttering wings. Gerald sings the lead vocals with a calm yet haughty bearing. The lyrics seem to combine the problems of erectile dysfunction, with infantile regressions of the adult psyche.
Of eleven tracks, six of them were far more exciting and artistic than the other five. A few of the songs seemed repetitive and boring, without any spectacular sound effects. I noticed some influences of sixties beach music. It's like devious beach music meets high tech new wave. The average band member's age was twenty six when this debut was released. So they were teenagers in the sixties and probably listened to the rock music of that era. The album peaked at #78 on the Billboard charts and went gold almost thirty years later. It wasn't a great seller, but did help to develop a cult following. The theme of de-evolution is displayed in the lyrics. With songs about birth defects, atrophy and the infantile regression of the adult psyche. It wasn't as mature as The Cars
' debut album, which had a constant barrage of synth and keyboard music. It didn't achieve nearly as much commercial success either.