My Vinyl Collection: Devo Special Part 3

Round 3: Can U Take It?

Greetings beautiful mutants! Welcome to part 3 of my Devo vinyl collection. Parts 1 and 2 were written back in January 2013, in the the intervening years I have amassed 12 more records which I will go into one by one - these 12 records bring the total to 37!

I have changed up the visual format a little by presenting the records straight on and cropping the images. I'm unsure if I prefer this look or the more informal look of parts 1 and 2, what do you think?

The new additions to the collection include a mixture of records that have been released since January 2013 as well as singles and an album I had yet to pick up. There are still records I am looking to add to the collection including the Total Devo era live album 'Now It Can Be Told...' and singles such as 'Fresh', 'Mechanical Man', 'Are U X-Perienced?' and the picture disc versions of 'Beatiful World' and 'That's Good'... so maybe one day there will be a part 4, if I get lucky!

Right, on with the records, Duty Now For The Future.

Come Back Jonee (7") (1978)

This single and the single below are the latest additions to my collection, I had been wanting to own both of them for a very long time but could never come across them at a price I was happy to pay. I found both of these at a record fair and paid only £5 for the two of them... steal!

Come Back Jonee has never really done it for me, I feel it's one of the weaker tracks on Devo's first album... I guess it's energetic but it doesn't strike me as being anywhere near as interesting as other tracks from the album such as Jocko Homo, Satisfaction or even Praying Hands and Mongoloid. I always liked the front cover of this single though, ever since I saw it on the bonus features of the DVD 'The Complete Truth About De-Evolution'. The single comes with a removable sticker on the front; you can remove the statue's head to reveal a potato as you can see here! Some versions of the single do not have this sticker and some elusive versions came with the sticker on a separate insert sheet. For me it was a no sticker = no buy situation.

The B-side is the classic Social Fools, this track had already been used as a B-side for the 'Be Stiff' single but hey, it's a good track!

The iconic red/green Virgin centre labels are grey for this release, I'd assume this was to fit with the artwork. There are also copies of the single on grey vinyl, giving more weight to the fact that it was a very concious decision. I like little touches like this.

The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize is a weird track. It seems jolly and upbeat but it's just full of mystery. What was the accident? Who's telling the story? What was the surprise!? I was immediately drawn to the track the first time I heard it and I'm glad they chose it as a single. I think it's often overlooked nowadays - as is the whole of 'Duty Now For The Future', great album. The track has so many interesting elements that rub against each other but somehow work and have a real pop sensibility to them.

The cover perfectly encapsulates the strange twisted logic of the track, there's a feeling that you're not seeing the full picture or that something is going on underneath the masks. The back of the cover furthers this with two pairs of legs without bodies, they look strangely identical and disembodied, anonymous and almost robotic. Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale would often use clippings from pop culture in their art, it'd be interesting to know if the two photographs used here were found or taken specifically for this cover. They liked dressing up in masks and would create persona's that they'd inhabit for hours at a time such as Booji Boy and Poot Man... there is a chance they staged this photograph but at the same time it looks strangely candid, like something you'd find in a pile of unwanted photos at a dodgy market stall.

The B-side for this single is Penetration In The Centrefold , another high energy freaked out punk rock track in the vain of Social Fools and Too Much Paranoias... another brilliant B-side. The only other track off of 'Duty Now For The Future' to receive a single was Secret Agent Man with the B-side of Soo Bawlz... god Devo were good at B-sides back in the day.

4 Track EP (12") (1983)

I'm honestly not sure why exactly this compilation was put together. It comprises of three tracks from 1978's 'Q: Are We Not Men?...' and Working In A Coalmine from 1981; why these tracks had to be put together in 1983 is anyone's guess. Were Virgin trying to remind everyone of Devo's glory days or was it a last attempt to cyphon some money from the band before the Virgin contract ran out?

This was never high on my want list but I picked it up for £2 at a market and couldn't say no. It has some water damage but to be honest I don't really care as I'm not that bothered about the release. I like the lettering on the front of the record and the fact that it's 45rpm but a part from that... meh.

Do you know more about the history of this release? Let me know.

Ah yes, Theme From Doctor Detroit. I always liked this track from the first time I heard it. I think the first time I heard it was on the amazing 2000 compilation 'Pioneers Who Got Scalped' in the form of the Dance Mix. The Dance Mix is presented here as the A-side and takes the track up to 6 glorious minutes. The track is fantastically energetic and poppy, with great crisp synth lines and an amazing synth solo. The track is obviously somewhat corporate as it was made for the film Doctor Detroit but Devo still manage to bring their energy through in bucket loads. The B-Side includes the shorter regular version but the jewel in the crown is the full studio version of Luv Luv.

I didn't realise before buying this single that Luv Luv ever made it past the demo stage and it's really fantastic to hear the final cleaned up version. This track alone makes the single a must have for any Devo fan but having two great versions of Theme From Doctor Detroit doesn't hurt the release at all. I love this release way more than I was expecting to. I think I paid £4 on eBay for this one.

I'm not sure the full soundtrack is worth getting but I'm glad they released the Devo tracks separately, good choice MCA.

Disco Dancer (12") (1988)

Oh dear, now we enter my least favourite Devo era of all, 1988's 'Total Devo'... sigh. My curious and completionist spirit has seen me picking this single up along with the 'Total Devo' album but to be honest I hardly ever listen to either.

The album was the first without Alan Myers on drums, he was replaced by Sparks drummer David Kendrick but the spirit of Devo just feels lost without Alan's creative and inspiring drum work. The drums here feel merely functional.

This 12" is played at 33rpm but only features 3 tracks, because of this both the A and B sides are exactly the same. Surely there was a better way of presenting these tracks. The 12" features three remixes of the album track by Ivan Ivan who I guess was a big deal at the time. The 7" version sounds pretty similar to the album version but the 12" version has many unwarranted breaks as well as a whole instrumental section that almost works... if only the underlying track was worth the attention. The release ends with what is labelled as Bonus Beats which sounds almost like a DJ tools section, again the music underlying is just so ugly and unusable that I doubt it ever got sampled. The single was released in many different forms, the CD and 7" versions feature an instrumental version of the track which would have been nice to have here. As far as I can tell this 12" is much easier to get hold of than the 7" but I say if you have the choice get the 7".

The artwork for this release is kind of horrific but somehow so bad that it's good. There are many design choices that I'd never understand, for instance the title of the track is in tiny white writting on the top and nowhere on the sleeve does it make clear that this is a Devo release. I like how radioactive their clothes look, it reminds me of their appearance in Neil Young's underrated lo-fi tripped out masterpiece Human Highway. I guess the sticker at least says 'Devo' on it. I got this release for dirt cheap sealed. The plastic wrap had gone a bit weird so I took it off but kept the sticker.

Total Devo (LP) (1988)

Right... on to my least favourite Devo album, 'Total Devo'. If this was your first exposure to the band you'd be forgiven for ignoring them eternally. The album is sandwiched between two albums that fans often hate too... 1984's meltdown album 'Shout' and 1990's last chance 'Smooth Noodle Maps' but for me 'Total Devo' just reeks! I love sections of 'Shout' (The 4th Dimension, C'mon, Jurisdiction of Love) and feel that 'Smooth Noodle Maps' is actually a rather sophisticated and misunderstood Devo record but 'Total Devo' has little that doesn't make me cringe. If you are a die hard fan of the group you owe it to yourself to listen to it, it's definitely interesting for a Devo fan but taken objectively it's just not up to snuff. The best tracks by far are the surprisingly sombre Some Things Never Change and Plain Truth as well as the almost great Happy Guy but in general all the tracks here overstay their welcome.

Like with the 'Disco Dancer' single the artwork here is so bad that it's kind of good. The cover features the same weirdly small white writing at the top of the release and the word 'Devo' is nowhere to be seen! Did the band not want to be associated with the release? The album comes with a double sided inner sheet with portraits of the band members and lyrics for most of the tracks in case you want to sing along. The record comes in an Enigma sleeve which is an interesting read and is kind of strange to see.

Watch Us Work It (12") (2008)

For some reason any Devo release from 2000-2010 is incredibly hard to find in the UK and harder still to find at decent prices. This is one single that I always wanted to own but didn't want to pay extortionate prices for. I ended up picking this up on eBay sealed for £5 showing that sometimes it's worth waiting things out.

Watch Us Work It was a track that Devo wrote for Dell in 2007. It was the first new track from Devo for a very long time and garnered a lot of positive reception from Devo fans who were hungry for new material. The track has very nice punchy production by Teddybears which makes the track pop unlike anything they'd released for years.

The 12" features the full studio version, a demo version and an instrumental version of the demo on the A-side but the B-side features probably my favourite version of the track. Still Workin' Mix was used in an edited form for the kids show Yo Gabba Gabba - a show that Mark features on often as an artist character - which is where I first heard it but this full 4 minute version is glorious. It sounds like the inside of Mark's head (and also his synth cave). The punchy feel of the original is replaced with incredibly bright synths layered on top of one another in an incredibly playful and fun new composition. The B-side finishes with a track called Devo Was Right About Everything by the lo-fi short lived group The Attery Squash, I personally don't really like the track but it was fairly big in the Devo community for a brief period. The version here is a 'Devo Mix' which features extra production by Gerald and Bob Casale. I would have preferred instrumentals of the studio and Still Working Mix of Watch Us Work It but you can't have everything I guess.

Packaging wise this is probably my favourite of the MVD Audio / Devo releases, it still feels a little underdone but is much better than other MVD releases like '... Japan 2003' or certain releases below. Overall a great single that any Devo or Mark Mothersbaugh fanatic should get a kick out of.

Ever since I became a fan of Devo I always wanted the elusive early 1990's 'Hardcore Devo' releases by Rykodisc. There were two volumes released, filled with tracks that had never been released before - at least not officially anyway. When I was getting into the group originally it wasn't uncommon to see these CDs going for £60 each, something I could never afford no matter how much I wanted them. Now, since the official re-release of both volumes by fantastic American label Superior Viaduct on both vinyl and CD the originals are much cheaper (one day I may pick them up).

In those early days when I was still discovering Devo I was part of a great private forum called Spud Talk and whenever the topic of 'Hardcore Devo' came up my eyes would widen, it was like a hidden trove of songs I was dying to hear. I ended up illegally (gulp) downloading the releases because I was getting a little desperate but I'm glad to finally own these tracks physically (and legally!).

So, for those who don't know, 'Hardcore Devo' catalogues a bunch of tracks by the group from their very early days up to their signing with Warner Bros. and Virgin. Volume 1 is the leaner of the two featuring 15 tracks in contrast to Volume 2's 21. The sound is much closer to a rock group with a lot of rock n roll influences but there is a proto-New Wave/Punk/Devo sound underneath it all which makes each song compelling. The band were trying some crazy things, creating one of the first electronic drum kits (played by original, pre-Myers drummer Jim Mothersbaugh) and using synthesizers in a rock song context to name just two. The production is incredibly muddy and swampy but that just adds to the beautiful charm of these tracks. There are super early primitive versions of Social Fools, Soo Bawls, Mongoloid etc which are a joy to listen to - they sound like caveman versions and I mean that as a compliment! - but the real draw are the tracks that were never previously released, tracks like Auto Modown and I'm a Potato are soooo important to understanding the world the members of Devo were living in and help put their sound in context. I absolutely love the tracks here but some feel that Volume 1 is the weaker of the two, so I would say go for Volume 2 first and then if you enjoy it pick up 1.

The packaging is rather nice and tasteful but in a strange way I think I prefer the look of the Rykodisc CDs, they have more character and represent the songs well. Here it feels like everything is merely functional. One thing that works in Superior Viaduct's favour is the great private photographs included on the back and the inner, it's nice to see the crazy environment that birthed these tracks. Overall I feel the label could have gone a little further in terms of design, they have put a lot of effort into other releases but these two feel a little simplistic. The sound quality is fantastic and the songs are presented on 180g vinyl, a fantastic bunch of muddy tracks to swim around in.

Hardcore Devo Vol. 2 (2xLP) (2013)

With Volume 2 the centre labels, back and inner are all white, just in case you get confused about what volume you picked up I guess! This set has two records filled with 25 tracks (the last 4 being exclusive to this re-issue) and features a fold out inner sheet. It's a shame the records aren't presented in a gatefold design, that'd put the icing on the cake! Again the design is very tasteful if a little simplistic... and again, the private photographs are definitely welcome.

The track listing here is perhaps a little more varied than the first volume but I guess that's due to the larger list of tracks... Standout moments for me include the cute but kind of gross Goo Goo Itch, the anthemic All of Us and Booji's meltdown in the form of U Got Me Bugged to name just three. There are only three tracks here that were released in new forms latter (Be Stiff, Working In A Coalmine and Clockout) so with Volume 2 you are basically getting 22 brand new Devo tracks and you really can't complain about that! The four tracks that are exclusive to this reissue are kind of throw away but nice to have, they sound incredibly raw and incomplete.

I absolutely love these releases and I'm still thrilled to own these tracks officially and on vinyl. They represent a completely different side of Devo yet also show the beginnings of ideas that they'd expand upon throughout their career. Essential releases for any Devo fan.

** text and images taken from Coloured and Picture Disc Part 2 **

This live recording was released for Record Store Day 2014 and is limited to 1750. The recording is from a show for Sundance Film Festival 1995 which featured Devo in cartoon-like prison outfits for whatever reason! The recording has been doing the bootleg rounds for years as I believe the show was televised. This was one of the first live shows Devo played in 'classic' mode where they played exclusively tracks from their first batch of albums; so no tracks from 'Shout' onwards although it does feature the laid back versions of Jocko Homo and Going Under which they started to do on the Total Devo tour. I much much prefer the regular versions of these tracks as the laid back versions come across very gimmicky... and Jocko Homo is one of Devo's defining tracks so it's a shame not to have it in it's regular state. 

The playing is great through out, in particular Too Much Paranoias which opens the set sounds rather gnarly! This was, I believe, Josh Freese's first gig with Devo and he adds a lot of energy to the performance, coming close to capturing Alan Myer's original spirit. It's obvious Freese has a love for these tracks and knows them inside out. David Kendrick of Sparks fame played drums with Devo on their late 80's and early 90's albums and his playing never seemed to have enough punch to my ears so it's great to have Freese here instead.

The sound quality of the picture disc is phenomenal as is the quality of the original recording although there is some kind of delay or reverb which on occasion gets in the way. The record comes in a regular see-through PVC sleeve, these are well known to cloud records and ruin the sound quality over time so I quickly put the record into a poly lining and now I can breath easy knowing the record isn't going to suddenly become unplayable! I'm not sure why people still present records this way, surely there is a better way to make them visible yet still properly protected.

The record was released by MVD and I never like their presentation, it always comes across cheap and amateurish and can often be mistaken for bootleg. They remind me of Music On Vinyl who also don't seem to put much care into the quality of the presentation. The record comes with a download code as well as a DVD that features the original gig and a short film from the 1980's called The Men Who Make The Music which had never been released on DVD up until this release. It's a great watch and essential for those hardcore Devo fans out there. Overall a great package and definitely value for money.

** text and images taken from Coloured and Picture Disc Part 2 **

'Miracle Witness Hour' is a live recording of Devo from 1977, just before they were signed and blew up with their debut Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo!. This was released by UK based label Futurismo as their second release after the Gleaming Spires' 'Songs Of The Spires'.

The record was initially released on CD as well as three separate vinyl colours, Hot Dust (this one), Atomic Party (below), and Ultimate Virgin (white). A few month later they'd add Neutron Dream to the family which is like a purple with white flecks. Each vinyl release comes with a download code.

The packaging is very distinctive and rather nice. The front cover is die cut so that the TV screen shows the inner. The inner sleeve for the record comes wrapped in a fold out card which can be reversed to put a different image in the TV (as I've done above). The packing is nice although the record tore some of the wrap around card for me which is a shame.

The performance is great and is a good document for the Devo of the time. It features a jam called Polyvinyl Chloride which would never be heard again, it's definitely not essential but it is nice to be able to hear Devo experimenting. The set also includes Huboon Stomp which would also never appear on a main Devo album.

This version, Hot Dust, has glitter running through a shining red vinyl which looks great although it does effect the sound quality. During songs it is not that noticeable but between songs the noise is very noticeable and it appears to get worse the further you go into the record. It's not unplayable but it does make you worry about what it might be doing to the needle! There are no huge pops but it's just a constant low noise. This edition was exclusive to their website and select independent record stores.

** text and images taken from Coloured and Picture Disc Part 2 **

This is the Atomic Party version of Miracle Witness Hour. Seeing as it does not have glitter thrown into the mix the sound quality is much better although the quality does get worse towards the centre where all the flecks of colour are.

I like that labels like Futrismo are around and releasing interesting vinyl but I can't help feeling that if you are going to do a coloured or picture disc release you have to be very very careful to preserve a high sound quality otherwise what is the point? Thankfully these releases feature download codes but I hope in the future that the label also releases black versions of each album and makes sure that the pressing and sound quality are prioritised over the visual aesthetics. Some labels never get the balance right but one rare instance of a label that has gotten everything right so far are Data Discs who specialise in video game soundtracks. Each release the label has put out features a black edition and the coloured editions sound incredible. A lot of care needs to be put into pressing coloured records and I hope these Miracle Witness Hour releases taught Futurismo some lessons for future releases.

Hardcore Devo Live! (2xLP) (2015)

I was one of 1334 people to pledge money towards the release of this double live album over at the Devo's Pledge Music page. I pledged for the vinyl and Blu-ray combo, signed by Mark, Jerry and Bob1. The double album documents a show in Oakland from June 2014 where they played tracks exclusively from their 'Hardcore' days. The show was part of a tour that came off the back of the Superior Viaduct re-issues. Sadly Robert Casale died in February 2014, the 'Hardcore' tour was dedicated to his untimely death which obviously hit the band really hard (Gerald being his brother, having work together since 1974, being close collaborators and friends). I can't remember if his death prompted the 'Hardcore' tour or if it was planned before his death.

The sound quality and playing is fantastic throughout. They really capture their original sound well and the energy is really great. There are 21 Hardcore-era tracks including Beehive which was only ever recorded on Gerald's solo record 'Mine Is Not A Holy War'. They also connect Timing X and Soo Bawls together the way they used to when performing live which is fantastic!

The release comes with a download code which is always great just in case the pressing is terrible... thankfully the pressing is near faultless. The centre labels spell out D-E-V-O which is a nice touch and the records come in polylined sleeves (thank you MVD!). The design on the front is great and kind of creepy, the design on the inside of the gatefold and back is a little plain but it's what you'd want for a live album, it documents the time and the feel of the gig with many images from the night.

I really wish that this tour made it over to the UK, I have only seen the band once and would love to see them again. Fingers crossed the stars will align and one more world tour can be had.

Are we not men?
'We are DEVO!'
Are we not men?
'We are DEVO!'
Are we not MEEEEEEEEN?
Okay then...

Posted: 12th January 2016

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