In 1991, California punk heavies Claw Hammer decided to pay tribute to one of their influences, and not with a mere cover or two, but by tacking an entire album from the band that helped shape part of their ragged musical vision. The record just happened to be Devo’s rather magnificent first LP, a choice that certainly befuddled more than a few at the time, but after inspection made perfect if truly twisted sense. For Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Not Devo! isn’t a tame and ultimately forgettable exercise in slavish devotion, but instead stands as a prime example of the rewards to be found at the intersection of (Claw Hammer’s) inspiration and (the Spud-Boys’) invention.
By the dawn of the ‘90s, Devo was in need of a serious reconstruction project in terms of both general image and more importantly the substantial musical worth of their early work. While they were never a band to inspire widespread levels of acceptance, in the late-‘70s/ early-‘80s Devo did find themselves with a rather fervent fan-base that cherished them as a real alternative to some of the more knuckle-dragging tendencies of the lingering Dinosaur Rock-era.
Thusly, they became quite popular as part of the New Wave, even if the group’s intense conceptual strategies were probably lost on the majority of the folks who bought “Whip It” and “Working in a Coal Mine.” Devo ended up playing such a major role in the whole Wavy scheme of things, getting on national-TV numerous times as late-night performers and even appearing as characters in the doomed New Wave-themed youth sitcom Square Pegs, that an eventual backlash was inevitable.
Many of the folks that dug them when they first emerged surely continued to recognize Devo’s worth and valued the ambitiousness of their prime stuff, but many younger listeners considered them to be little more than a flash in the pan and even more curiously as an MTV-relic, this assessment either ignorant to or ignoring the fact that the group’s integration of sonic and visual stimuli pre-dated the music channel’s debut on cable-TV by several years.