DEVO - The Complete Truth About De-Evolution - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

DEVO - The Complete Truth About De-Evolution Reviews

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½ September 11, 2004
Several weeks from now, I'll be going to see Devo. For the uninformed (i.e. the folks who know Devo purely through "Whip It"), this may seem like a weird nostalgia trip, gleefully paying big money to see a bunch of has-beens from a one-hit wonder '80s group drag their tired, wrinkly asses on stage to perform songs only the most desperately trapped-in-another-decade would know. And, hell, it may turn out to be. But even so, it's Devo. And Devo was, is, and forever will be the greatest nerd band of all time. (Plus I'm not old enough to have seen them the first time around.)

[i]The Complete Truth About De-Evolution[/i] is your basic music video compilation, ported straight from the 1993 laserdisc version, missing only the video for Devo's cover of "Are U Experienced?" because Jimi Hendrix's family, it seems, are a bunch of assholes. Also missing from the video roster is the mind-bogglingly awful video for "Doctor Detroit," present on the out-of-print VHS compilation, which features gratuitous footage of Dan Aykroyd, and is thus not missed.

Most of the songs on the collection come from the great time when MTV was just beginning, and the format of the music video had yet to really form. Music videos could be anything; sure, there could be some sort of story (a technique that Madonna perfected), but mostly they were just random footage of weirdness. Devo was perfect for this fledgling form, because if any band knew about random weirdness, it was Devo. And They Might Be Giants, but that's another compilation.

Most of the early videos--"Satisfaction," "Come Back Jonee," "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise" and "Whip It" most notably--are essentially footage of the band performing intercut with, well, weird stuff. Hey, there's a spazzy guy jumping all over the place. Hey, now there's cowboys. Now there's a man in a cradle. Ah, nonsense.

"Worried Man" consists of footage directly from Neil Young's underrated oddball classic [i]Human Highway[/i], though I'm unclear what the original use was--it may just be that the video footage is used in the film. (Though the film ends with a long version of the same song featuring the entire cast.) "Girl U Want" does a nice job of mocking teenage girl band-mania, as an audience filled with (off-color) giddy teens enthusiastically cheer first Devo, then a fat kid attempting to drink a milkshake on an exercise machine. Pure genius.

"Beautiful World" is easily the most overtly angry of the videos, juxtaposing zany '50s footage of people using hula hoops with war atrocities and starving children, and it's made all the more compelling now that the song itself has been used to advertise Target(!). "Through Being Cool" is strange Devo-ish turn on videos similar to Michael Jackson and the Stray Cats at the time, as black-shirted teens dance around reciting the song and converting those around them.

Things start to slow down near the end with the lacking "Disco Dancer," a mediocre song by Devo standards and a shrug-worthy video with minimal impact. They get worse with the first video for "Post Post-Modern Man," in which Devo, dressed in Miami Vice-like garb (!) tries to get back to their girlfriend. The second video for the same song, a barrage of fake Devo-ish objects satirizing home shopping networks, isn't brilliant, but it's fun and suits the song considerably better.

All in all, though, [i]The Complete Truth About De-Evolution[/i] is a great trip through history, not just of Devo, but of the video format itself. Those new to the wonders of Devo should check it out, especially if you're a math nerd, sci-fi buff or bizarre pop culture fan, all of which influenced both their music and videos.

And you'll be able to get all the references to Devo in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Dare to Be Stupid" video. You'll impress your friends. Well, you'll impress the people on the internet you pretend are your friends.
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