.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/08c86cb4080b6bcf5e459c65a0ba26b823437ad8.jpg Duty Now for the Future

Devo

Duty Now for the Future

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
September 20, 1979

Devo is sort of the rock equivalent of Kurt Vonnegut, taking off from premises it only half understands. These guys synthesize trenchant experimental trends into a hodgepodge that's compelling only to those without the intellectual vigor to penetrate the band's surface pose to find the real pose underneath. Like the rest of the No Wave to which they're appended as a kind of accessible doppelgänger, Devo's funkless chubs have very few new ideas—most of the concepts on their second album, Duty Now for the Future, have been recycled from Frank Zappa, the Yardbirds and other Sixties avant-gardists — and the handful of original notions they do try to express are mostly lame or fraudulent. As rock & roll, this sort of stuff is a horror show that dispenses with backbeat, melody and raw emotion — i.e., all the things that ever made rock worthwhile.

 

"Strange Pursuit," for instance, is built on a guitar riff at least as old as the Mothers of Invention's Absolutely Free. There's a stock Zappa line surrounded by banal lifts from the kind of psychedelia that people stopped fiddling with after Jimi Hendrix emerged to point the way to a productive use of distortion and power. "Devo Corporate Anthem," like most of the group's attempts to preach and philosophize, means to be ominous but finally sounds like a lift from the Masterpiece Theatre theme. This band wants to pass itself off as a specter of the multinational future of a society ruled by corporate technology, yet its manipulation of high-tech resources is so clumsy that the end result is finally a lot less scary than the simple arrogance of standard British rockers like Queen.

What Devo, like most No Wavers, apparently doesn't understand is that inspired amateurism works only when the players aspire to something better: both Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and the more anonymous guitar genius of Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" were audibly straining against their limitations as musicians. Devo celebrates those limitations and leaves us stuck with them, which is aggravating. If these characters are so smart, how come they can't establish a groove?

Because they aren't that smart. Like wiseass rockers from the Mothers to Sparks, Devo picks easy targets ("Blockhead"), regurgitates slogans and clichés ("Triumph of the Will," for a really choice — or rank — example) without thinking much about their meaning, and generally shows contempt and disdain for anyone not as glib as the group is. To say that this critic despises Devo does not go nearly far enough. When I finish typing this, I'm taking a hammer to Duty Now for the Future, lest it corrupt anyone dumb or innocent enough to take it seriously. Shards sent on request.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com