Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!
|Q: Are We Not Men?
A: We Are Devo!
|Studio album by Devo|
|Released||August 28, 1978|
|Recorded||October 1977 – February 1978|
|Singles from Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!|
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is the debut album by the American new wave music band Devo. Produced by Brian Eno, it was recorded primarily in Cologne, Germany and released in the U.S. by Warner Bros. Records company in 1978.
The album received somewhat mixed reviews from critics and peaked at number 12 on the UK album charts and number 78 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Recent reviews of the album have been more uniformly positive, with the album charting on several retrospective "best of" lists from publications including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork Media and Spin.
On May 6, 2009 Devo performed the album live in its entirety for the first time as part of the Don't Look Back concert series curated by All Tomorrow's Parties. On September 16, 2009, Warner Bros. and Devo announced a re-release of Q: Are We Not Men? and Freedom of Choice, with a tour performing both albums.
In 1977, David Bowie and Iggy Pop received a tape of Devo demonstration songs from the wife of Michael Aylward, guitarist in another Akron, Ohio band, Tin Huey. Both Iggy and Bowie, as well as Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, expressed interest in producing Devo's first release. At Devo's New York debut show in 1977, Bowie proclaimed that "this is the band of the future, I'm going to produce them in Tokyo this winter." Eventually, Eno was chosen to produce the album at Konrad Plank's studio located near Cologne, Germany. Bowie was busy with filming Just a Gigolo but helped Eno produce the record during weekends. Two tracks, "Come Back Jonee" and "Shrivel-Up", were recorded at Different Fur in San Francisco. All tracks were mixed at Konrad Plank's studio named Conny's Studio. Since Devo was without a record deal, Eno paid for the flights and studio cost for the band, confident that the band would be signed to a record contract. In return for his work on the album, Eno asked for a share of any subsequent deals.
The recording sessions were a source of frustration for Eno and Devo. Eno found the group unwilling to experiment or deviate from their early demonstrations of recorded songs. Devo later admitted that "we were overtly resistant to Eno's ideas. He made up synth parts and really cool sounds for almost every part of the album, but we used them on three or four songs."
The cover art was illustrated by Joe Heiner. According to an essay by Jerry Casale included on the Complete Truth About De-evolution DVD, the cover of their debut album is based on an image of the famous professional golfer Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodríguez that they had found on a golf strap. According to Casale, David Burnam, the manager of business affairs at their recording company Warner Bros. Records, decided the image could not be used because "he was a golf fan and felt we were making fun of Chi Chi." The band offered to contact Rodriguez personally but had time constraints, due to the forthcoming production of their album. The manager of the company's art department, Rick Serini, recommended an artist who could airbrush and alter the face of the picture, while Mark Mothersbaugh offered a picture he'd procured from a local newspaper that morphed the faces of United States presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. These ideas were morphed with the original "Chi Chi" Rodriguez image to create the cover art of the album.
The band did eventually get Rodriguez's permission to use the original photograph. Since the "morphed" album sleeves were already in production by that time, Serini claimed it would cost the band $2,500 to halt production and reinstate the image intended originally by the band, which forced the band to keep the morphed version. According to Casale, "we were able to come out with something that by the corporate interference and misunderstanding of the business side of Warner Bros. Records, actually unwittingly produced something far more DEVO than the original [image]."
"Are we not Men?"
The phrase "Are we not men?" is from The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), by H. G. Wells. It is part of the litany of the Law, spoken by the Speaker of the Law to the Beast Folk, creatures surgically force-evolved by the mad doctor.
The song "Jocko Homo" makes fun of the concept, saying mankind is devolving into bestial idiots rather than teleologically evolving towards perfection. The call-and-response section of the song mimics the litany, as the audience is swept up into obeying the band by repeating the response. DEVO's frontmen, Casale and Mothersbaugh, would use the song in concert to manipulate the audience by refusing to play anything else until they felt the audience was angry enough.
Devo received offers to release Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! from Warner Bros. Records, Island Records, Virgin Records and David Bowie's production company Bewlay Brothers. Virgin obtained rights to release the album in the United Kingdom, while Warner Bros. held the rights for North America. The album was released in the United States on August 28, 1978 and in the United Kingdom on September 1, 1978. Virgin also released a picture disc version of the album, illustrated with a still from the band's 1976 music film The Truth About De-Evolution.
In North America, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! peaked at No. 78 on the Billboard Charts, while in the United Kingdom it entered the charts on September 16, 1978 and remained there for seven weeks, peaking at #12. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was also successful in Japan. The album went "gold" in the United States on July 27, 2007 and "silver" in the United Kingdom on January 15, 1979.
|The Village Voice||B+|
Initial critical reaction to Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was somewhat mixed. Tom Carson, writing in Rolling Stone, claimed that "There's not an ounce of feeling anywhere, and the only commitment is to the distancing aesthetic of the put-on", and opined that "Devo lacks most of Eno's warmth and much of Bowie's flair for mechanized melodrama. For all its idiosyncrasies, the music here is utterly impersonal." Critic Robert Christgau gave the album a positive rating of a B+, but noted, "In small doses it's as good as novelty music ever gets, and there isn't a really bad cut on this album. But it leads nowhere." Nonetheless, it was voted one of the best albums of the year in the Village Voice's influential Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1978. In January 1980, Trouser Press also named it one of the best albums of 1978.
Later reception of the album has been more uniformly positive. Steve Huey of the online music database Allmusic scored the album four and a half "stars" terming it "arguably Devo's strongest set of material, though several brilliant peaks can overshadow the remainder", and "a seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave." Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! has scored on several "best of" lists, including Spin's 50 Most Essential Punk Records, Pitchfork Media's top 100 albums of 1970s and Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It is also listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
|1.||"Uncontrollable Urge"||Mark Mothersbaugh||3:09|
|2.||"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"||2:40|
|5.||"Mongoloid"||Gerald V. Casale||3:44|
|6.||"Jocko Homo"||M. Mothersbaugh||3:40|
|7.||"Too Much Paranoias"||M. Mothersbaugh||1:57|
|8.||"Gut Feeling" / "(Slap Your Mammy)"||
|9.||"Come Back Jonee"||
|10.||"Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')"||
|CD Track listings|
All songs written by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald V. Casale except where noted:
- Bob Casale – rhythm guitar; additional keyboards; occasional backing vocals
- Gerald V. Casale – bass; additional keyboards; lead vocals
- Bob Mothersbaugh – lead guitar; backing vocals
- Mark Mothersbaugh – keyboards; occasional guitar; lead vocals
- Alan Myers – drums
- Production team
|1978||Billboard Pop Albums||78|
|1978||UK Albums Chart||12|
|RIAA – U.S.||Gold||July 27, 2007|
The song "Uncontrollable Urge" has been covered by numerous bands, among them "SNFU" for the tribute compilation "We Are Not Devo," and the Brooklyn-based comedy/alternative band "Kenny Young and the Eggplants," from their first album "Even One is Quite a Few."
|This section requires expansion. (August 2015)|
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- Strong 1998, p. 201
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"Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
"Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
"Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
"Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?" (The Island of Doctor Moreau; Chapter 12, Paragraph 18)
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- Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! at Rate Your Music
- Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! at MusicBrainz (list of releases)