DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Devo – The Complete Truth About De-Evolution (2014)

New Wave video pioneers still resonate!

Published on March 8, 2014

Devo – The Complete Truth About De-Evolution (2014)

 Devo – The Complete Truth About De-Evolution (2014)

Featuring videos and live performance footage of Devo
Cast: Mark Mothersbaugh; Bob Casale; Gerald V. Casale; Alan Myers; Bob Mothersbaugh; Jim Mothersbaugh; David Kendrick
Songs: Devo Corporate Anthem: Secret Agent Man; Jocko Homo; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction; Come Back Jonee; The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise; Worried Man; Whip It; Girl U Want; Freedom Of Choice; Through Being Cool; Love Without Anger; Beautiful World; Time Out For Fun; Peek-A-Boo; That’s Good; Theme From Dr. Detroit; Disco Dancer; Post-Post Modern Man; Post-Post Modern Man (Rock Schenk Remix)
Studio: MVD VisualMVD6054D [Distr. by Chrome Dreams] [2/11/2014]
Director: Chuck Statler
Video: 4×3 Color
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Extras: Commentary with Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald V. Casale; Interview with Director Chuck Statler; Mongoloid – A Film by Bruce Conner
Length: 69:41
Rating: ***1/2 

As the seventies unwound, popular music innovations determined to euthanize the bloated hangovers of classic rock and disco. Punk music from England and the Lower East Side brought a savage energy and sense of danger. Androgynous fashion and social anger fueled these groups. A pair of college students in Ohio added their satirical, genre-bending take on music. Blending punk, art-rock and New Wave constructs with science fiction, surrealism and social commentary, they explored a theme of anthropological dysfunction or “de-evolution”.  But events at their university (in May 1970) brought a serious tone to Devo and the degeneration of American society. As recording artists, this group garnered critical acclaim with songs like “Whip It”, “Mongoloid”; and (“I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. Additionally they were pioneers in music videos (at first creating clips for the laserdisc), and helping to launch the fledgling MTV network. While the group recorded and toured with different lineups for two more decades, their impact never equaled the mid-eighties zenith, they still occupy a unique position in rock history.

A new DVD release: Devo The Complete Truth About De-Evolution features a comprehensive anthology of the band’s music videos and pre-MTV clips. There are many images of institutionalized America juxtaposed with strange performance footage. “Secret Agent Man” (yes, the one from the TV show) is performed like a robotic Velvet Underground, with a jagged guitar and synthesizer. The genesis of “de-evolution” is discussed in comic detail (“…Are we not men? We are Devo!”) on their early hit “Jocko Homo”, as medical garb and masks are employed. Devo can rock out as well. (“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”) is a straight-forward punk version of the Rolling Stones song, albeit with yellow jump suits, swimming goggles and bizarre film inserts.

And things get weirder. The group dons black and pink Western garb to deliver “Come Back Jonee”, but sill exude a punk vibe. Perhaps the most controversial video “Whip It” also explores a western costumed look.The disturbing imagery overshadows catchy rock song. Skateboards, ancient Rome and aliens (“Freedom Of Choice”) and a modernized West Side Story-like dance video (“Through Being Cool” with ray guns instead of zip guns of course) underlies the groundbreaking video concepts. The surrealism (headless bodies, half-chickens/half humans) pervades the visual content.

The stereo mix is good. The music still has a crisp and tight sound. The video quality (standard 4:3) seems a bit dull for such a vibrant group. However, Devo – The Complete Truth About De-Evolution is an interesting

—Robbie Gerson




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