Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo

More Devo

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  • Devo’s superb debut finally returns to the site after more than a year, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands
  • Tons of great songs on here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave… had a conceptual unity that bolstered the consistent songwriting, making it an essential document of one of new wave’s most influential bands.”

Let the Devolution begin! 

While Devo’s music may never sound as rich, warm, and tubey as the typical classic rock album, that certainly doesn’t mean we need to accept completely anemic, sterile sound for this album. It took a big stack of copies, but here’s one that made us sit up straight, pay attention and enjoy!

Tons of great songs here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction.

This vintage WB pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1978
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Size

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

What We’re Listening For on Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Uncontrollable Urge 
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Praying Hands 
Space Junk 
Mongoloid 
Jocko Homo

Side Two

Too Much Paranoias 
Gut Feeling / Slap Your Mammy 
Come Back Jonee 
Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’)
Shrivel-Up

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Produced by Brian Eno, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was a seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave. It was one of the first pop albums to use synthesizers as an important textural element, and although they mostly play a supporting role in this guitar-driven set, the innovation began to lay the groundwork for the synth-pop explosion that would follow very shortly.

Q: Are We Not Men also revived the absurdist social satire of the Mothers of Invention, claiming punk rock’s outsider alienation as a home for freaks and geeks. While Devo’s appeal was certainly broader, their sound was tailored well enough to that sensibility that it still resonates with a rabid cult following. It isn’t just the dadaist pseudo-intellectual theories, or the critique of the American mindset as unthinkingly, submissively conformist. It was the way their music reflected that view, crafted to be as mechanical and robotic as their targets.

Yet Devo hardly sounded like a machine that ran smoothly. There was an almost unbearable tension in the speed of their jerky, jumpy rhythms, outstripping Talking Heads, XTC, and other similarly nervy new wavers. And thanks to all the dissonant, angular melodies, odd-numbered time signatures, and yelping, sing-song vocals, the tension never finds release, which is key to the album’s impact. It also doesn’t hurt that this is arguably Devo’s strongest set of material, though several brilliant peaks can overshadow the remainder. Of those peaks, the most definitive are the de-evolution manifesto “Jocko Homo” (one of the extremely few rock anthems written in 7/8 time) and a wicked deconstruction of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which reworks the original’s alienation into a spastic freak-out that’s nearly unrecognizable.

But Q: Are We Not Men? also had a conceptual unity that bolstered the consistent songwriting, making it an essential document of one of new wave’s most influential bands.

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