Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was the 1978 debut album from quirky New Wave pop group Devo. It's more of a rock-oriented album than their later, more popular works, but it still maintains their utter quirkiness (some would call it geekiness). The album was released in July 1978 on Warner Bros. and totals thirty four minutes and twenty four seconds.

At first Warner Bros. appeared to be interested in pushing the band to the moon, as their debut album was produced by one of their top producers at the time, Brian Eno. This is surprising, because up to this point the band had only released three singles, two on their own label and one for British indie label Stiff Records. This is even more surprising considering it's, well, Devo; they're one of the more unusual pop-rock groups to come along. Of course, the label's attitude would later change, but the band got very nice treatment for their first album.

The album opens with Uncontrollable Urge (3:08), a song about having an extreme case of pent-up sexual frustration, which is really appropriate considering this was a major theme throughout Devo's music. The song features a great guitar hook and, as always, Mark Mothersbaugh's distinctive vocals.

The sexual frustration theme continues with a cover of the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (2:38). The group puts a slightly uncomfortable twist on it, turning it into a song of sexual near-desperation. Mick Jagger once called it the best cover of the song he'd ever heard, and that's saying a lot.

Praying Hands (2:47) uses some surf-style guitar and just a hint of electronica on this song about masturbation and how it's socially frowned upon. Yes, again, there's that theme coming through.

Spack Junk (2:13) is a rather obscure song about, apparently, things falling from the sky. Whether this is literal or metaphorical I can't tell, but the song does have some nice electronic guitar work.

One of Devo's best songs is the fifth song on this album, Mongoloid (3:42). In this odd track, a tale of an individual with a genetic handicap who hid his deficiencies very carefully to be accepted into normal society, the music uses a "whipping" effect almost like what would pop up on their biggest mainstream hit, Whip It. The single version is much more stripped down and perhaps preferable, but this song somehow gets across the paranoia and fear of the situation they're describing much better. This song is an example of why Devo is a much, much better band than they are often given credit for.

If there is a Devo anthem, it is this one. Jocko Homo (3:38) features some very unnerving repeated notes and a guitar playing the scales to create an eerie effect to start with. Add in the lyrics about de-evolution and the mechanical repetition of the line "We are Devo" in the chorus and this song is spooky in a very odd way. Yet, somehow, I find myself singing along.

Too Much Paranoias (1:56) uses what sounds like monster movie samples in this song with a very distinctive set of repeated notes on an electric guitar. Obviously from the title, the song is about paranoia and fear of almost everything. The breakdown in the middle is a little unusual, but the song comes off well; the middle third of this album is the best.

Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy) (4:54) is probably the most standard rock-pop on this album. It's about having a gut feeling that a relationship is going down the tubes. The secondary title seems to be a reference, again, to masturbation... it's the only explanation for it based on the way the track ends.

Come Back Jonee (3:46) is about a rock star who kills himself when he realizes he's broken the heart of the girl he loves. It's probably the most straightforward song on the album lyrically, and it features some great drum work and some wonderful rock guitar.

Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin') (2:37) is about a guy whose girlfriend isn't being too subtle about her cheating ways. One can also take it as a tale about a failed sexual encounter as well. It features some unusual guitar work and chanting at the start; that's probably the most notable feature.

The album closer, Shrivel-Up (3:05) is about how life goes downhill as you get older, so you might as well live life to the fullest. It's a nice and very mellow album closer to this largely unusual album.

This album is full of a lot of very good sexually-charged pop rock, but it's quite unusual; if you're expecting something that fills the norm, you're not going to find it here. If you enjoy it, pretty much everything else in the Devo catalog is recommended, espcially Duty Now For The Future, Freedom of Choice, and New Traditionalists.

In 1977, Devo, who was being courted by Virgin Records, and Warner Brothers, was contacted by Brian Eno. He offered to help them record an album at Conrad Plank's studio in Germany. Devo, of course, accepted, and so they were flown out on Warner's dime, and set up with some spending money (some of which was spent on a neat little thing I will mention later). Gerald V. Casale missed the flight, and arrived a day late, so for the first day the band jammed with Conny Plank, and Brain Eno, as well as doing some instrument shopping with Warner's money.

Devo and Brian Eno did not get along very well. Devo entered the studio with both their first and second album planned, based entirely on material that had been refined through years of touring and practice. The tracklisting, according to the book Are We Not Men? We Are Devo! for the first album was to be "Satisfaction", "Too Much Paranoias", "Praying Hands", "Uncontrollable Urge", "Mongoloid", "Jocko Homo", "Social Fools", "Be Stiff", "Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy", "Sloppy", and "Come Back Jonee". For the most part, this was accurate, though "Be Stiff" and "Social Fools" were used as a single on Stiff Records instead. The heavliy planned approach Devo brought to the studio conflicted with Brian Eno's style of production, which was to force bands to re-evaluate aspects of their production. Devo brought tapes of demos and things, and asked Eno to help them piece together a sound based on aspects from the tapes. Despite the conflicts, the album managed to be recorded without too much incident. However, Eno did remove the sharper edge of the band's sound, which would not be remedied until Duty Now For The Future.

The album was released in the US on Warner Brothers, and in the rest of the world on Virgin Records. The American and UK versions differ in their covers, with the Virgin release using stills from The Complete Truth About De-Evolution film for the front and back. A picture disc was also released of the album using those stills. This picture disk included a flexi-disc single titled Flismy Wrap, which is simply someone talking over the end of a radio broadcast of a Devo concert.

In the US, the cover was originally set to be an image of golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez from the packaging of a golf club cover. The President of Warner Brothers, however, was an avid golf fan, and felt the cover was mocking Rodriguez. He proposed an alternate cover with a similar design, omitting the band Chi Chi's hat, and changing the eyes. When the band rejected this, he suggested that a composite image be used. Meanwhile, Chi Chi had signed off the rights to the image to Devo, in exchange for a couple records. However, word did not reach Warner Brothers, and the image used on the album was not Chi Chi Rodriguez. Fortunately, the real Chi Chi was not upset, and sent the band several autographed pictures.

The first track, Uncontrollable Urge, as tes wrote, is about sexual frustration. The odd chiming sound near the end of the track comes from a bizarre German guitar amplifier, Bob 1 bought. When the end of a guitar cord is touched, the amp emitted that bizarre chime, to which the band immediately decided it must use.

The cover of the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, came from rehearsals in Devo's bunker/studio in Akron. The studio was located behind a car wash, and so they would have to pay 50 cents to jam. In winter, this resulted in their car being covered with a thick sheet of ice. At one of these sessions, they had come up with this simple riff and drum beat, to which Jerry had began singing "Paint It Black" over. Mark Mothersbaugh, noticing that "Paint It Black" just didn't work, started singing "Satisfaction". It worked.

Praying Hands was obliquely about masturbation, and the religious considerations about it. Praying Hands would, in live performances, culminate in Mark running into the audience and interrogating random people what their right or left hand was doing.

Space Junk, originally planned for the second album, is one of Devo's more human songs. It channels the rage of a technophobic person upset at the loss of his girl from crashing, well, space junk. Some also view this song as a stylistic precurser to The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise

Mongoloid, and Jocko Homo are two of Devo's oldest songs, going back to their first, self-produced single. Mongoloid is a ballad to the common man, who despite his handicap, manages to be a productive member of society. It's working class imagery was a staple of early Devo songs. Jocko Homo, of course, was Devo's anthem (as opposed to the Devo Corporate Anthem). The title for the song comes from an obscure religious pamphlet, Jocko Homo Heavenbound, which is considered Devo's Old Testament

Too Much Paranoias is a simple critique of advertising and its pervasiveness into modern culture. The lyrics include a chant from a Burger King ad, "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way." This also is another example of the working class imagery Devo used.

Gut Feeling (Slap Your Mammy) is more unrequited love. It's a thematic precursor to Devo's classic Girl U Want, only with the protagonist of the song realizing he's in for a bump ride. Slap Your Mammy, along with Sloppy probably the closest on any album Devo has gotten to their early, raw, punkish sound.

Come Back Jonee uses 50s rock and roll metaphors to mourn the passing of John F. Kennedy. This actually comes from Gerald Casale himself in the commentary on The Complete Truth About De-Evolution.

Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin') is a track about the consumer society. Lyrics like "She spent her money on a car / She spent her money on a brand new car / It didn't get her very far / No it didn't get her very far" cry out against the consumer culture which weakened the art society.

Finally, Shrivel-Up, is perhaps a more oblique view of devolution than the band has done before or since. Devolution is inevitable, irreversable, and permanent. There's nothing you can do - "It's a God given fact", so enjoy the ride.

Despite the issues with production, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is a powerful, influential, and unique album. It deserves a higher accolate in music than it has gotten.

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