On November 15, 1977, David Bowie introduced Devo at Max’s Kansas City, a Manhattan-based club that hosted some of the first American punk and new wave bands, as well as the well-known CBGB & OMFUG. Less than a month ago, the White Duke had published Heroes, which featured Robert Fripp (King Crimson guitarist) and producers Tony Visconti and Brian Eno.
Although the Mothersbaugh brothers’ band had been founded four years earlier, the author of “Space Oddity” met them during the award ceremony of the 1976 Ann Arbor Film Festival, an experimental film competition where they received recognition for the short film The Truth About De-Evolution, directed by Chuck Statler.
The title refers to the “devolution” facing society, an idea that was intensified when vocalist Mark Mothersbaugh and bassist Gerald Casale, both art students at Kent State University, were present at a massacre in which members National Guard officers shot students protesting the US invasion of Cambodia. That attack on May 4, 1970 left a total of four dead and nine wounded.
In the video you can see how the members of the group – dressed in blue overalls, helmets and masks – enter a factory with their instruments, through which they generate a series of repetitive and mechanical sounds, decorated with disfigured synthesizers and guitars. robotic. Thus, later scenes are reproduced of people wearing ape masks hitting a woman’s butt. In addition to scientists, characters with masks, a murder and phrases like “use bright colors or avoid exposure” and “be like your ancestors or be different.”
That experimental overdose caught the attention of David Bowie, who was in the audience and was convinced that the band presented the ideas necessary for the future of the music industry. As a result of this, the British contacted the group to get them a contract with the record companies of the United States, an objective that was denied despite his extensive network of contacts.
This led to him contacting Brian Eno, who was a member of Roxy Music until 1973 and had collaborated with him on Low (1977) and Heroes (1977), that is to say, the first two albums of the “Berlin Trilogy”, which was completed two years later with his collaboration in Lodger (1979).
The response was positive, the composer agreed to transfer the members of the group to Cologne (Germany), so that they could record their debut. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978) at Conny Plank studios, a space where albums such as Highway (1974) the Kraftwerk y New! ’75 (1975) by Neu !.
While David Bowie originally intended to produce the album, his starring role in the film Just a Gigolo (1978) caused him to give up the job to Eno. Despite this, the author of “Golden Years” appeared in the credits as a co-producer, due to his contribution to the discovery of Devo and the remixing of most of the songs, except for the titles “Space Junk” and “Shrivel. -Up “.
The first studio work of the no wave group stands out for its minimalist character, which is enhanced by a series of provocative and acid riffs typical of punk, as well as monotonous synthesizer melodies that provide a wide variety of sonic nuances. Likewise, the expressiveness in the voices of the musicians is manifested in a theatrical and caricatural way, which act as an approach to an absurd reality, but which continues to lose meaning and relevance.
In this way, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! It is consolidated as one of the most influential albums in the music industry, which managed to position itself both on the commercial agenda and on the list of cult names.