Are We Not Men? Pick Your Favorite Song from Devo’s Debut.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about Devo lately. Not in any profound way, just thinking about listening when I got a chance. I got a chance today while making dinner. On goes Are We Not Men? We are Devo, which starts with the brilliant Uncontrollable Urge, moves onto (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, which I owned on 7″ long before the elpee came out, and then goes all over the freaking place. And I do mean freaking.

Remembering, at the time, I grouped the band with the Talking Heads, who had a similar angular geeky-ness, and the Tubes, who had an over the top theatricality. When I listen now I hear mostly classic rock moves, filtered through a novel lens, a lens which made it both surprising the band existed and that they then made hits with mainstream success and surprising that we didn’t see just how inevitable that was on first listen.

I think what I mean is, we knew weird. We loved Zappa, dug Alice Cooper, admired Captain Beefheart, but each of those personalities carved out his own space on the edges of taste and sensibility. They had some pop exposure, but they were happy to exist as novelties.

Devo carved out that space, then tried to bring the whole dang world into it. They were weird, uncompromising, and ambitiously popular, not content to reside on the sidelines with the other freaks. That was cool.

So, while listening to their first elpee tonight, I was struck by how strong the songs are. How little there is that is thrown away. Maybe none of it. And as I went from song to song I said to myself, That’s a great tune. Then, Oh, that’s a good one. Oooh, love it. Which got me thinking that maybe we all have different favorite songs from Are We Not Men? We Are Devo.

I’m laying claim to Mongoloid. It was the first Devo song I heard, it is the one I know all the words to and compulsively sing along to, but I’m pretty sure there are strong cases for others. What’s your favorite song on Devo’s first album?

 

Soul Party Hits

Best song by this band. Multi-percussion fell out of fashion in rock and in soul too, if you count rap as soul. I mean, there are rap songs with lots of percussion but they are few, and punk pretty much wiped out the woodblocks, cowbells and timbales not to mention congas and bongos. It didn’t die altogether, Talking Heads come to mind, but lying dormant there are unexplored possibilities.

When we were 14-15 we used to sing and bang anywhere and anytime. We had this song down, harmonies and cross-rhythms on the money. No selfies in those days; too bad.

Shane McGowan and the Popes, The Snake

This is an album, not a song.

It was the product that McGowan produced after being ejected by the Pogues.

The Pogues, with McGowan, were a fantastic band. Lots of that was songwriting, much of it McGowan’s, some was approach, and a lot was an intense commitment to making real Irish music, sometimes in a punk framework.

When the Pogues, an ongoing enterprise, kicked McGowan out, it was at least partly because his rather self-destructive and theatrical love of the drink was disruptive to an ongoing enterprise. To find an equivalent, think of the Stones kicking Brian Jones out of the band. McGowan was of similar importance to the Pogues, and similarly dangerous.

What came next, for the McGowan, was the Snake.

It’s an Irish-y record, not that dissimilar from his Pogue’s stuff, but heavier. And after McGowan wasn’t a Pogue, the Pogues went more international. Less intense. Lovely tunes, often pot infused, but without the edge that McGowan often brought simply by showing up.

This is the first song from the Snake, the first song on McGowan’s answer record. It rocks as hard as the first song on the Pogues’ first album. I’ll post both. Enjoy.

The Sickbed of Cuchylainn.

 

 

 

Rolling Stones, Brown Sugar

I just read Gene’s comment about the Political Correctness Police in the comments to the Now I’ve Got A Witness post (about the ranking of every Rolling Stones’ song). I started reading the list from the bottom up, and was noting the very excellent songs ranked near the bottom of the list. Short and Curlies, in particular, apparently because it is misogynistic ignoring the jamming instrumental track behind the lyrics.

In any case, I come at the Political Correctness Police a little differently. I believe people have a basic right to express their opinions, and I also believe people have a right not to be aggressively attacked with hateful speech. Since those two positions are not mutually exclusive, the resolution is one of constant negotiation with oneself and with those within earshot.

For me, there is a big distinction between words said by a person directly to another person in such a way that the implication is personal, and the same words issuing into the public space in a more general way. The former is hate speech, the later is hateful speech (if the subject is hate) and hate speech is perhaps not illegal but certainly morally reprehensible, while hateful speech can be extreme and uncomfortable and repulsive, but its immorality is far from automatic and should be given every benefit of the doubt.

Which brings us to the Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, which is certainly one of the most rampantly offensive and rocking songs in their oeuvre. A writer named Lauretta Charlton wrote a defense of the song in Vulture a couple of years ago,  and quotes Mick Jagger as saying, in 1995, “I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop. I can’t just write raw like that.’”

I can imagine a world without the hatred and history of Brown Sugar didn’t exist (I have a good imagination), and in such a world such a song probably wouldn’t exist. But that isn’t our world, and if in 1969 Jagger didn’t pour out the lyrics to the song (which he in subsequent years in live shows changed, because he felt uncomfortable singing the originals) as he did, our world would be a lesser place. Fuck those Political Correctness Police.

David Marchese ranks Brown Sugar as the 10th best Stones song of all time.

Jonathan Demme has died.

Jonathan Demme’s life is rightly noted for his versatile and diverse talents and interests, though his love of music seems to be the unifying connection between his genre films, documentaries, blockbusters, and humanitarian work. I liked much of his oeuvre, maybe not as passionately as some, but I admired his restless and generous life. And when I heard the news I thought of this, as I’m sure did many: