Devo’s Gerald Casale to world: “We tried to warn you”

gerald-casale-devo

There’s a chance something miraculous might happen tomorrow: Art school project turned synth-rock pioneers Devo might get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They wouldn’t be the first weirdos to crash the Rock Hall — Frank Zappa had that honor in 1995, followed by Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997 — but for a band that’s still unjustly known more as a one-hit wonder than as a groundbreaking conceptual group, it would be a pretty major coup for them to be enshrined alongside The Beatles and Elvis and Bon fucking Jovi and all the other canonical rock gods. There’s even a very, very slim chance that they’ll be in the same induction class as Kraftwerk, who are also nominated this year — which would make 2019 the weirdest and synth-iest R&RHOF class ever. (But don’t hold your breath — Stevie Nicks, The Zombies and Def Leppard are nominated, too, and they’ll almost certainly be at the front of the line with voters this year.)

To celebrate this fleeting gesture of mainstream acknowledgement, Devo founder Gerald Casale wrote a remarkable open letter to fans on Noisey, Vice’s music website, reflecting on the band’s history and the prescience of their kidding-but-not-really theory of “devolution,” which posits that humans are doomed not to evolve, but to devolve, as our increasingly sophisticated technologies, marketing methodologies, and political systems cater ever more effectively to our baser instincts. “When Devo formed more than 40 years ago, we never dreamed that two decades into the 21st century, everything we had theorized would not only be proven, but also become worse than we had imagined,” Casale writes.

I encourage you to read Casale’s whole letter, which is a brilliantly cranky screed. It’s especially enlightening if you don’t know Devo’s full history (for the uninitiated, here’s a teaser: The band was founded by a group of Kent State University grads in the early ’70s, after a certain infamous shooting took place there). But here’s the heart of what he’s getting at:

We are drowning in a devolved, WWF Smackdown-style world, with warring, huckster TV pundits from “The Left” and “The Right” distracting the clueless TV viewership while our vile, venal Mobster-in-Chief (who makes Idiocracy’s Macho Camacho look fit for office) and his corrupt minions rob the nation’s coffers in a shamelessly cruel, Grab-‘Em-By-The-Pussy Kleptocracy. …

So, let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late. Perhaps the reason Devo was even nominated after 15 years of eligibility is because Western society seems locked in a death wish. Devo doesn’t skew so outside the box anymore. Maybe people are a bit nostalgic for our DIY originality and substance. We were the canaries in the coalmine warning our fans and foes of things to come in the guise of the Court Jester, examples of conformity in extremis in order to warn against conformity.

Casale ends his essay by describing Devo as “the house band on the Titanic” and asking rhetorically, “Is there any question that De-evolution is real?” Nope, Jerry, I’d say you and your bandmates pretty much nailed that one. Well done! Except we’re probably now all doomed and, if your theory of “de-evolution” applies to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which it clearly does — did I mention they inducted Bon fucking Jovi?), then they’ll almost certainly induct the strip-club soundtrack machine that is Def Leppard and pass over Devo. So you won’t be inducted but hey, at least you’ll be proven right.

If by some miracle Devo does get inducted, we’ll be back tomorrow with some exploding head GIFs.

 

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Weird Live Review: Sparks

Sparks at the Ace Hotel

It’s not every day you get to hear music by any band on our Weird List rendered by a 38-piece orchestra. It’s even more remarkable when that band is Sparks, the quirk-pop duo of Ron and Russell Mael, and even more remarkable when the focus of the event isn’t one of their more symphonic efforts like Lil’ Beethoven but their 1974 glam-rock opus Kimono My House, which featured nary a string section but plenty of fuzzy guitar solos and Russell Mael’s swooping falsetto vocals at their most mock-operatic.

The Mael brothers first gave Kimono My House the orchestral treatment last December in London, and decided to follow up those shows with a similar two-night run in their hometown of Los Angeles. The setting for both performances was the suitably stately Theatre at Ace Hotel, formerly the United Artists movie palace, a spectacularly ornate room with Gothic decorations nearly as elaborate as the music from Kimono My House.

As I usually do these days, I wrote the full review of the show for my day job over at L.A. Weekly. So you can read my full account on their site. Suffice it to say that while the orchestral reimagining of Kimono My House, most of the highlights (for me, anyway) came in the show’s second half, when they played an assortment of songs spanning Sparks’ amazing four-decade catalog. And at least one of those highlights involved a monkey. (And no, I’m not referring to Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. Although he did insert himself into the proceedings. I’m still not sure how I feel about that Sparks/Franz collab.)

Weird of the Day: Pulsallama, “The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body”

Pulsallama

Reader Eddie sent us a link to this video by an all-female ’80s group from New York called Pulsallama, a short-lived art-punk ensemble made up almost entirely of percussionists, plus some bass guitar and the occasional horn line (because this was the ’80s, after all). According to their Facebook page, their sound was sometimes described, pretty accurately, as “13 girls fighting over a cowbell” (though they eventually slimmed down to a svelte seven-piece). After opening for The Clash and releasing a couple of singles, they disbanded in 1982.

This song, “The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body,” was a minor college radio hit, which is just further proof of something we’ve been saying for years: The ’80s were an awesome time for weird music.

If you want to learn more about Pulsallama, fringe culture experts Dangerous Minds (who else?) have a great summary of the band’s brief career.

Weird of the Day: Erleen Nada, “Psychedelic Spaceship”

Erleen Nada

I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite weird music videos are the ones where you can quite tell if the band is kidding or not. When I first watched “Psychedelic Spaceship” from self-proclaimed “sassy synth master” Erleen Nada, I was sure the whole thing was a big goof. Now I’ve watched it like 10 times, because it’s awesome, and I can’t tell anymore. She’s like the sexy lovechild of Jan Terri and Fred Schneider. Is she really gonna take a ride on a psychedelic spaceship? Is she really infinity? I think maybe she is. Take me with you, Erleen!

For more from Erleen, who’s yet another weirdo from right here in Lost Anjealous, check out her website.

“Devo Hardcore Live!” is coming via PledgeMusic

DEVO

Remember when we told you about how awesome the Hardcore DEVO tour was? Still bummed that you missed it? Or you went, but you just can’t get enough “Bamboo Bimbo” and “Clockout”? Well, good news: DEVO documented one of the shows on the tour and is gearing up to release the whole thing in a variety of formats via MVD Entertainment and the crowdfunding site PledgeMusic.

For as little as $10, you can get a digital download of Devo Hardcore Live!—or you can spring for a little extra and get the soundtrack on CD or vinyl, as well as the film itself on DVD or Blu Ray. There are also goodies like signed T-shirts, concert posters and set lists. The trailer for the film posted on the PledgeMusic site looks pretty sharp, so this should be a great memento for you hardcore Devo-tees out there.

The campaign is already nearly 50% funded (PledgeMusic doesn’t reveal total dollar amounts), but don’t think of this as a donation. It’s more like a glorified pre-order.

We’ll leave you with a more lo-fi glimpse of the Hardcore DEVO tour. This is “Jocko Homo,” from the Seattle stop of the tour, just a few days before they filmed the whole thing in Oakland. Yep, still pretty weird after all these years.

Weird of the Day: Mr. Vast, “Ease and Speed”

Mr. Vast

It’s fitting that today’s weirdo, Mr. Vast, looks a little hungover in his promo photo. He’s from Germany and presumably that entire country is a bit bleary-eyed today after celebrating their historic World Cup win.

It’s also fitting that the track we’re going to share from Mr. Vast is called “Ease and Speed,” because that pretty accurately describes how the Germans dispatched Brazil yesterday. He’s actually got weirder music, but “Ease and Speed” just seemed too timely to pass up. Plus the video is jam-packed with the kind of green-screen tomfoolery we just never tire of, and Mr. Vast comes on like a groovy cross between Gary Numan and Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer. It’s good shit.

[Update: Turns out we’re full of shit and Mr. Vast is English. But he’s based in Germany. And the shit we wrote about the World Cup is funny, so we’re leaving it. Sorry, Brazil.]

For more Mr. Vast, visit his official website.

Weird of the Day: Pocket Lips, “It’s Amazing (The Incredible Dance)”

Pocket Lips

We’ve been doing this blog for a long time, so we like to think we’ve gotten pretty good at tracking down information about obscure artists over the years. But every once in awhile, one of you eagle-eyed readers points us to something so far off the pop culture grid, no combination of Google search terms yields many results. That certainly seems to be the case with the South African novelty act Pocket Lips.

A reader named Shane sent us a link to Pocket Lips’ one and only hit—and yes, by accounts it was a hit in South Africa back in 1987, when it climbed all the way up to No. 6 on the local pop charts. Also by all accounts, the band was a studio project made up of producers/musicians Ian Osrin (actually a highly respected South African recording engineer and record producer with an extensive list of legit credits), Zack Haynes and Sam Wingate, plus a vocalist named Keith Berel who had previously fronted a popular Johannesburg band called Flash Harry. How all these apparently talented individuals came to record a song as ridiculous as “It’s Amazing (The Incredible Dance)” is a bit of a mystery—although I suppose the bigger mystery is how a song as ridiculous as “It’s Amazing (The Incredible Dance)” became a top 10 hit. Was pop radio under apartheid a whites-only affair? Maybe that might explain it.

At any rate, this ridiculous song  from this ridiculous band (not be confused with a more recent U.K. act called Pocket Lips, who are also ridiculous, but for different reasons) has an equally ridiculous video, which we will now share with you because ridiculous is kind of our thing. Enjoy.