Archive for the ‘Devo’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Live at Massey Hall (April 29, 2016).

After their farewell concert at Massey Hall in 2007, who would have guessed that some nine years later they’d be back again.

When I heard this show was announced I immediately bought a ticket, not really thinking about how I would logistically manage such a thing.  I was able to get it to a fan who could go, but at least I’ll have my email confirmation:

Live at Massey HallRheostatics
Fri 04/29/2016 8:00 PM
Main Floor Centre Front  Seat I-44   $29.50

This time Martin’s voice is working again.  But in the intervening years he has had something else go on with him.  I don’t know details, but there’s some kind of anxiety present–and it comes out during this show.

Amazingly, for such a big show, there is hardly any evidence of it online.  There’s a few fan videos but no full sets available.

The only performance available that I can find is the official release from (the terrific) Live at Massey Hall series.  The whole series is wonderful–professionally filmed and beautifully recorded.  The only problem is that it’s so short.  I don’t know how long the show was, but the video is only 40 minutes.

The video opens with Martin talking about his laryngitis, “laryngitis taught me to enjoy singing in a lower range.”  There’s Tim talking about seeing Devo (who were walking on treadmills the whole show) at Massey Hall and overheating from wearing a heavy coat in winter.  Dave saw lot so new wave bands who weren’t great live but were great because they were in Massey hall–it’s a forgiving and inspiring place.

Big red letters in the back of the stage spelled out RHEOSTATISC (sic).

The set opens with “King of the Past” Martin plays a lovely solo and gets some applause and the whole thing sounds great.

“Californian Dreamline” opens with some great sound effects from Martin, Hugh Marsh and Kevin Hearn.  But after the “sensamilla” bit, Martin freaks out.  He steps away from the mic and waves everyone off.

Dave jumps in, “this happened in Montreal once. It’s true.  We were opening for Moxy Fruvous, so it’s a kind of curse we’ve got to exorcise.”

The band jams on and them Martin comes back to sing and the crowd gives him a big cheer–there really is no more forgiving crowd than a Rheostatics crowd.

The opening acoustic guitar of “Claire” begins.  That’s Tim on acoustic, Dave on bass and Martin on his gorgeous double neck guitar.  The letters have been rearranged to say SORTA ITCHES and Martin plays a great solo.  Tim sounds perfect, of course.

They start “P.I.N.”  Martin sings the first line and then has an issue.  He steps away again while the band plays on. He catches himself and returns (again to encouraging applause).  Once it gets going it all sounds great.

Dave finally gets a lead vocal song.  The letters spell out SHITCOASTER as they play a flawless “Mumbletypeg.”

Then apparently the entire rest of the show happens and we get the night-ending encore–a wild and raucous “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.” (The letters finally spell RHEOSTATICS). The song gets off to a pretty good start.  For the middle, Martin and Hugh face each other (Martin always seems comforted by being with Hugh) and then Don Kerr gets a drum solo (with sound effects from Kevin Hearn).

At the end of the song, for the “moon,” there are howls, probably from Kevin, possibly from the audience.  As they slowly fade away, Dave jumps of the drum rise and the end of the song begins.  But this is an extended jam ending.  Hugh and Kevin make some menacing sounds and then Martin plays a solo with a slide.  It’s a weird, very undramatic ending for such a dramatic band.

I have always been sad that I couldn’t go to this show, but it sounds like it would have been a real roller coaster of a night.

Read this review from Radio Free Canuckistan for the perspective of someone who was there.

Over the closing credits, Kevin Hearn’s father read “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski.  I assume he read that before the band came out (accompanied by Hugh Marsh).

I don’t know much by Bukowski, but this is great for its simple profundity.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

[READ: March 5, 2018] Head Games

As with some of my favorite books, the story behind the creation is almost as interesting as the book itself.

Craig McDonald is a journalist and he says that he is often frustrated by trying to write the truth: “read five biographies about the same person and you’ll feel like you’ve read about five different people.”  With fiction maybe you can find something bordering truth.

The introduction by McDonald tells us that we will be riding with pulp novelist Hector Lassiter.  Lassiter is the protagonist of a finite arc of ten novels. The last one, Three Chords & The Truth is a sequel to Head Games and appeared in 2016.  Lassiter is a charmer, a rogue, a rake and a crime novelist who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.  Hector was born in Texas in 1/1/1900 and the arc of the novels spans the 20th century.

McDonald says the publishing history of the books is not chronological. Head Games was the first novel published.  The second was set in 1935 and features Hemingway prominently.  Other books hopscotched through the decade. They have recently been reissued and presented in roughly chronological order.

The novels “follow secret histories and underexplored aspects of real events.”  They’re set in real places and use history and real people to drive the plots. (more…)

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myopSOUNDTRACK: DEVO-“Satisfaction” (1977).

devoThis has to be the most audacious cover of its time.  Devo took one of The Rolling Stones’ more beloved song and turned it into a weird, angular piece of art.

The original has a simple riff, a surprisingly slow pace an a slinky, sexy groove.  Devo has sped it up and, most importantly, made it angular and complete unsexy.  I have been listening to this song over and over trying to figure out what is going on.

The drums are consistent but there’s all kinds of interesting sounds in the drums.  The guitar and bass are doing one or two repetitive riffs that don’t quite make sense individually, but work well together.  The bass line itself is just fascinating–how did anyone think of that?

Lyrically, the song is the same, but instead of sounding like a guy who is trying to score, he sounds insane.  And the babybabybabybabybabybaby section is hilarious and weird.  Then they throw in a modified “Satisfaction” riff loud on the guitar at the end with the band chanting “Satisfaction.”  Talk about deconstruction.

No Devo song would be complete without the visual element.  All five of them wearing their plastic hazmat suits, moving in stiff/jerky motions, more robot than human.  And of course, Mothersbaugh himself looks crazy with swim goggles on and mussy hair.  Then they show his modified guitar–the first item in close up.  There’s duct tape all over it, and extra knobs and some kind of square bottom section.  It seems impossible that it is making the sounds that he is shown playing on it since the strings (or is it just one string?) seem so loose.

There’s the guy doing flips (Wikipedia tells me he is dancer Craig Allen Rothwell, known as Spazz Attack, whose signature dance move was a forward flip onto his back).  And of course, there’s an appearance by Booji Boy sticking a fork in a toaster.

What on earth did Mick and the boys think of this?

This cover was done in 1977 and it is still remarkable today.

[READ: September 1, 2015] Myopia

We saw Mothersbaugh’s Myopia show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.  In retrospect I would have loved to spend more time there (although the kids probably wouldn’t have).  So when I saw that there was a book for the show, it seemed like a worthwhile investment.

And this book is a fascinating and comprehensive look at Mothersbaugh’s life and output as a visual artist and a founder of Devo.

Mark was a quiet kid and he was legally blind when he was born.  It wasn’t until he was around 5 that he got a pair of glasses which totally changed his world.  He was always artistic and rebelled against convention.  His world was greatly expanded when he went to college.  But he was at Kent State when the four students were killed by the National Guard. This affected him profoundly and send him investigating the world of devolution.

Of course most people know of Mothersbaugh from Devo–who were huge in their own way in the 1980s.  I was a young lad at the time and while I liked “Whip It,” I never thought they were cool (if only I knew).  But before creating Devo, Mothersbaugh was creating all kinds of visual arts.  He was doing print making at college, he was doing postcard mailers to people. It was only when he realized how much cheaper it would be to make music than to constantly be making print items that he devote some energy to Devo instead. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 2, 2015] Myopia.

myopiaI grew up with Devo in the background.  But I honestly never really gave them a lot of thought.  The biggest surprise for me was back in the late 80s when in a radio interview Geddy Lee said that he liked Devo quite a lot (the caller said that he saw him wearing an “Oh No It’s Devo” pin).  I have a couple albums, and I knew all about “de-evolution” but it kind of ended there.  I also knew that Mark Mothersbaugh had become the defacto composer for all the great contemporary films.  But I had no idea the extent of his creativity.

When we were visiting relatives in Denver, Sarah’s brother took us to MCA Denver for Mothersbaugh’s show Myopia.  I could have looked at the exhibits for hours (although the kids weren’t that exited by the whole thing).  The entire museum was devoted to Mothersbaugh.  There was a live video in the basement.  And as you progressed up the levels, the chronology of Mothersbaugh’s vision unfolded. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Dare to Be Stupid (1985).

dareAfter In 3-D, Al came out with Dare to Be Stupid the following year.  It wasn’t quite as big a hit as In 3-D, even though it had the Madonna parody as well as a couple of really great originals–“One More Minute” and “This is the Life” (as seen sometimes in Johnny Dangerously–not on the VHS version for legal reasons, although it is on the DVD).

“Like a Surgeon” wonderfully skewers Madonna–Al doesn’t often do women’s songs, but this one fits his range very well.  “Dare to Be Stupid” is a Devo parody (well, more tribute as this is no weirder than any Devo song).  It’s a frenetic and wild song telling yo to do all the things that you were told don’t do.  Okay I can hear you now.

“I Want a New Duck” is a really lame lame parody.  It’s weird and while he fills out the nonsense pretty well, it sounds like he came up with the idea because nothing else sounded like Drug (the original is pretty stupid too, so there ya go).

But then there’s the sublime “One More Minute” a hilarious doo wop “love song” in which the backing band really shows off what they can do.  “I’m stranded all alone in the gas station of love and I have to use the self station pumps” is absolutely hilarious and a completely under appreciated line.  “Yoda” is a good parody, one that has not only held up but has been resurrected with the new Star Wars franchise.

I never understood why they did a cover of George of the Jungle, but I never watched the show so it doesn’t have any meaning for me.  “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” is a goof of a sci-fi song which doesn’t quite match the absurd heights of “Nature Trail to Hell.”  Al says that “Girls Just Want to Have Lunch” is his least favorite parody (the label asked him to do Cyndi Lauper) and it’s really not very good–again, the song was too goofy to mess around with that much, but even in his recording it’s not very convincing (and he returned to the hand farts) the way that he and the backing vocalists are singing even sounds like they are disdainful of the song.

“This is the Life” was commissioned for Johnny Dangerously and he really ups his game for it–lots of genre jokes and a really good quality of recording.  “Cable TV” is a pretty uninspired song about TV (which is surprising given how many songs he has written about TV) which has an awful sax solo–joke or not it’s bad.  “Hooked on Polkas” is the second of his mashups of songs.  The banjo version of “Sharp Dressed Man” is cool as is the use of the sounds from Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” there’s also some pop metal Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot–and where else would you hear Quiet Riot next to Frankie Goes to Hollywood?

All in all some hits and misses.  And yes, maybe this stuff was funnier  in the 80s?

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People 

I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this story   The first few Underpants books were silly and a funny way to make a story about a guy in his underwear.  But as the series has progressed it has gotten far more complex with fascinating twists and recurring characters (and how does he keep a storyline fresh in his head three years later?).

So Booger Boy Part 2 actually ended in the middle of a cliffhanger (but this one is not a Part 3 because the Booger Boy is no longer relevant).  Rather, when we left George and Harold they were in the purple potty time machine with Sulu the hamster and Crackers the pterodactyl and they were hurtling…. somewhere.

When they exit the potty, they are in the library, but the library is full of books!  The exact opposite of their own school library (and the librarian is even holding a copy of Mommy has Two Heathers.  In fact everything is the opposite–the school is encouraging creativity  the teachers are nice and Principal Krupp is happy to see everyone   It’s really weird.  Especially when the boys see themselves across the school.   And they turn out to be…evil!  Yes Evil George and Evil Harold look like normal George and Harold do, but they do things that are evil (they change sign letters to read anarchy rules…yipes). (more…)

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booger1SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC in 3-D (1984).

in3dAfter Al’s debut he came roaring back the next year with In 3-D a disc which opens with his first Michael Jackson parody “Eat It.”  The song was leaps and bounds above anything on the debut (even if there are still hand farts in it).  The song actually sounds like the original (if a little less “full” and a little goofier and on the whoo hoos).  But the solo by Rick Derringer rocks and the whole song works very well.  The rest of the album is a solid mix of originals and parodies

I didn’t really understand that “Midnight Star” was meant to parody the Weekly World News and such (I didn’t really know those papers at the time) but I thought the headlines were funny.  And yes its a lot of fun to sing a long to.  It’s always funny when Al parodies a song that is already rather stupid (My Sharona, or in this case Safety Dance), and “The Brady Bunch” opens with a general overview of stupid TV shows and then morphs into the The Bunch’s theme song to the music of “Safety Dance.”  “Gonna Buy Me  A Condo” is a reggae song which I never really got the joke of as a kid.  I mean, I knew it was reggae but I didn’t know enough about reggae to know that this song is kinda funny, about selling out for the mainstream life.  It’s not genius or anything but it’s kinda funny–in fact I think it’s funnier now than I ever did as a kid.

“Jeopardy” works perfectly as a parody.  It retains all of the weird sounds and “drama” of the original and yet it works entirely unto itself.  It’s definitely an early highlight.  This disc also introduces what would be come a staple on all his later albums:  “Polkas on 45” where he mashes together a string of songs into a polka beat.  They are always fun and clever.  This one is a mix of new wave and classic rock bands Devo, Deep Purple,  Berlin, The Beatles,  The Doors,  Iron Butterfly, Jimi Hendrix, Talking Heads, Foreigner, The Police,  The Clash,  The Rolling Stones,  and The Who.

“Mr Popeil” is another one that I didn’t full get until later (why did i like Al if I didn’t get any of the jokes?).  Ron Popeil is the king of the As Seen on TV  product (as listed in the song).  The thing that I really didn’t get was that this is was a parody of the B-52s–one of the first parodies he’d done that’s a parody of band but not really a song.  This is not a parody of Rock Lobster exactly, but it sounds quite a lot like it–and that’s a neat trick.

“King of Suede” is a parody of The Police–I never really liked it even though it does work as a parody–perhaps the original isn’t a very string song.    “That Boy Could Dance” is instantly forgettable, so much so that I had forgotten all about it.  “Theme from Rocky XIII” is a pretty funny parody of “The Eye of the Tiger.”  But it doesn’t prepare you for the genius that is “Nature Trail to Hell.”  An epic song about horror movies with the great line “if you lie the 6 o clock news you’ll love Nature Trail to Hell (in 3D).”  It’s over the top and very silly–the music escalates  with screams and strings and several different sections (although the solo section is a little anemic).  I can’t imagine what he would do with it today if he rerecorded it.

So In 3-D was a big jump in quality for “Weird Al” and was actually a pretty big hit (charting at #17).

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 2

Since it is 2013 and not 2003, I don’t have to wait several months for Part 2.  Huzzah!

The opening comic in this book not only gives all of the Captain Underpants background that it usually does, it also includes what happened in Part 1.  At the end of the book, the robotic booger monsters (Carl, Trixie and Frankenbooger) were on the attack.  They destroyed the Combine-O-Tron 2000 so it would not reverse the effects of the machine on Captain and Melvin.  But Sulu the hamster rescued them by hurling the boogers into space (with his mouth, ew).

The boys want to get things back to normal.  But Professor Krupp (who is in Melvin’s body) is going about his business getting everyone in trouble.  Except that since he looks like Melvin people are getting angry at him rather than listening to him.  This book features a wonderful letter swap from “Check out our school’s big internet website at http://www.jhes.com” to “We shake our big butts when we swim in the toilet.”

The boys give up on trying to fix the Combine-O-Tron and decide to use the Purple Potty Time Machine that is in the library and go back in time.  There’s a great sequence in which the librarian has banned every book but one and I love the posters that are up encouraging the banning of books–it’s another awesome dig at those who censor.  And the librarian is named Miss Singerbrains. (more…)

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