Submitted for your approval: two bands, quintets at that, as similar to each other as the Spanish and Italian languages, yet as dissimilar as the classic contrast of fire and ice. Devo. The B-52s.
Both were formed, as were so many good things, in the 1970s, and hailing from parts of America that are virtually worlds away culturally from the artistic capitals of New York and California. Devo sprouted up in Akron, Ohio, snotty college kids who were forced to stop fuming on the periphery and jump into the fray after the tragedy at Kent State in 1970. The B-52s came together as weirdos in a weird land, the one the only the Athens, Georgia (that’s GA to them). The B’s had in their ranks one pair of siblings; Devo, two. Devo espoused the revelatory concept of human de-evolution, which averred that hirsute bipeds are doomed to move backwards, growing dimmer and dimmer, falling apart with each successive generation.
Both released their debut albums outside their home country, in the latter part of their birth decade, with noted names behind the boards. Both were signed to Warner Bros., feted by famous David B.’s. The dominant color for each album cover was yellow.
Yet while Devo challenged the status quo, the B-52s were the self-proclaimed “tackiest little dance band in Georgia” (which allowed that there was an even tackier one somewhere out there). While both bands fit neatly into the burgeoning “New Wave” subgenre, Devo were jagged, dark and robotic, a jarring alternative to the B’s and their surf-rock game-show Beach Blanket Mothra aesthetic. And, it must be said, whilst the five men of Devo were documented pussyhounds, all three males in the B-52s were openly gay.
I discovered each band almost simultaneously. Severe asthma kept me from going outside to engage in the raucous play typical of young children, so I stayed inside and absorbed universes. I watched television, played video games, watched movies my brother taped off HBO, read magazines and books, and oh yes yes yes, listened to the cassettes and vinyl records scattered all over the house, reflecting the vast tastes of my six older siblings. One sister in particular was the New Wave fan, and it was a big deal when she brought Whammy! home. But, I will save that remembrance for that review.
Devo I caught onto just a little before, via their constant presence on MTV. Their videos for “Satisfaction” and “Whip It” were just made to imprint on the brain. I didn’t delve deeper into their catalogue until well after the B-52s were practically family in my record collection.
Now it has come to pass that I’ve seen Devo live twice, the B’s never; the odds are virtually guaranteed that this will not change. Yet I don’t know if Devo can ever mean to me what the B-52s have. I don’t know that it should be held against them. After all, both bands are more than worthy of this project which takes over my blog for this week, a full discography review of both bands, two albums per day except one day when it’s three for the sake of symmetry. The very first of these shall be up later this evening.
It’s my wish as always that you will check in, hop in, strap in, and enjoy.