Skip to comments.DEVO in CENTRAL PARK - Snappy and Smoldering in Jumpsuits and Upturned Flowerpots
Posted on 07/31/2004 4:12:26 AM PDT by weegee
The band members wore uniforms and did some synchronized moves. Their songs had snappy little hooks and robotic drumbeats. They even started their set with an introductory video. But Devo was hardly a boy band when it played on Friday night at Central Park SummerStage, in its first public New York concert since the 1980's. Just in time for the current new-wave revival, Devo, which got started in Ohio in 1972 and released its first album in 1978, returned to prove that its songs still have some bite.
Paradoxes have always collected around Devo. It started as an art project, turned into a cult band and had its moment as a pop novelty hit maker with "Whip It" in 1980. Its songs use constricted structures to foster both tension and comedy, as when Mark Mothersbaugh proclaims, "I've got an uncontrollable urge," to music that's strictly under control. The tunes are built on stiff, jerky rhythms that somehow hint at funk anyway.
Before MTV existed, Devo understood the power of building an image through video. And before words like "branding" became music-business staples, Devo had its own logo and mock-corporate image. The band satirized commercial claims that products were constantly new and improved by setting out its own doctrine of de-evolution: that human intelligence is rapidly declining. Early in its career Devo recorded a rhythmically displaced version of the Rolling Stones' own complaint about commercials, "Satisfaction."
Yet while Devo has sporadically disbanded and regrouped over the last decade, Mr. Mothersbaugh and two other members have been writing music for commercials and soundtracks. On Thursday night Devo performed elsewhere in Central Park at a corporate-sponsored event.
Friday's concert was partly a vigorous nostalgia trip, with a set of the band's most familiar songs and Devo's members wearing their matching yellow jumpsuits and red "energy dome" hats, which look like inverted flowerpots. As always, the group members called their audience "spuds." Jokes about Republicans and a snippet of Nelly's "Hot in Herre" (as they doffed their jumpsuits) were virtually the only updates.
Hearing Devo now made clearer how much the band was a product of the 1970's "Mongoloid," about a happy corporate drone, could have been a Ramones song if not for Mr. Mothersbaugh's swooping keyboard part and how thoroughly the band warped its basic garage-band riffs and synthesizer licks, often bending them into odd meters. Yet what now comes through songs like "Freedom of Choice," "That's Good," "Gut Feeling" or "Smartpatrol/Mr. DNA," just as much as their cleverness, is the rancor behind the jokes: the smoldering annoyance that a generation later, corporate brainwashing and de-evolution only seem to be accelerating.
Two New York bands that draw on new wave shared the bill: Stellastarr, which juggled the styles of the Cars, Talking Heads and the Cure, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose set squandered its momentum on stubbornly midtempo songs. But at least the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' singer, Karen O, had just the outfit for the occasion, an outdoor concert punctuated by rain. She arrived in a transparent poncho over a fluorescent-patterned one-piece bathing suit.
Jerry Casale told me that he and Mark Mothersbaugh got to know each other while in college. They were on opposite sides at the Kent State shooting (literally, I think that Jerry/Gerry was in the guard).
Rock and Roll PING!
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Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times - Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo performing at Central Park SummerStage on Friday.
New York Times articles may be posted in full.
This is all there was.
The post was not directed at you. It was in reply to an Abuse Report we had just received. Sorry for the confusion.
There's something sad about a 50 year old man with a flower poy on his head...........
Methinks he is probably not the first 50 year old man seen running around Central Park with a flower pot on his head.
Very innovative (weird?) band, that sparked several others to experiment with the pop format, such as They Might Be Giants.
[But why must they all be Lefties?]
I saw Devo at the club on Naval Station Long Beach in 1987 or 88. Great show and we were right in front.
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