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Devo – Hardcore DEVO Live!


Devo - Hardcore DEVO Live!This review is based on the CD and DVD releases; the set is also available on vinyl and blu-ray.

Before rising to fame, Devo experimented in basements and garages in Akron, Ohio during the years 1974–1977. This was a time whenthey were just doing whatever they wanted, and as they say themselves, they made “raw, unfiltered songs with no commercial intent”. Many of the songs that were created at that time, according to themselves, they never played again. Not until last year; then they decided to go on tour, to honour to the departed Bob “Bob2” Casale, following his idea to give new life to the creativity that brought them all together as a band. This album documents one night in Oakland at the Fox Theater on 28 June 2014.

In the first early years after they formed the band, they were uncompromising, and did what they wanted to. Sounding as they wanted to sound like, and were looking for “sounds that were nasty and disrupted”, they were paid to stop as many times as they were paid to play during those years.

Almost with an avant-garde attitude, they looked to not limit themselves within the rules of rock or pop music, but rather creating their own style and blend of strangeness into their pop-punk-rock‘n’roll-blues, especially lead by varying sounds coming out of analogue synth and effects of Mark Mothersbaugh. As they say: “If we had an idea, we just did it, and didn’t ask: should we?”

For me Hardcore DEVO Live! ended up being one of those albums that grows on you with every listen. The songs are hard and heavy or light and catchy; some are simply arranged, and others more complex. What is common is that those old, almost-never-played tunes work so well. Why did they not play them? Some of the classic songs, such as “Jocko Homo” and “Satisfaction (Devo version)” worked also very well, and still have relevance today. And to make it clear: The “Satisfaction” tribute is really a tribute, not a joke. And the track” Timing X/Soo Bawls” is an example of how close they were to being a prog-rock band, even. Well, if they were a punk band at the time, they certainly were one of the most experimental.

The DVD is very well produced, with good sound. Not much extra other than commentary in between songs, an alternate opening, and one short snip of how the “Satisfaction” guitar was made. I would like to have seen longer interviews with the band, or some sort of documentary from those early years.

From time to time, old rock acts get together to play some of their old hits or old out-of-date songs. Often times, they end up doing it with less energy or not the same dedication as they used to, making the whole sound like boring elevator muzak. So not with this. The songs and performance are filled with humour and energy, and they never get boring. It is a collection of quirky, punked, rock ’n’ roll songs of a wide variety, and still very good. And they are still relevant, De-Evolution is real …

-Ronny Wærnes-

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