Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Devo: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! [Warner Bros., 1978]
If this isn't Kiss for college kids, then it's Meat Loaf for college kids who are too sophisticated to like Meat Loaf. Aside from music per se, the Kiss connection is in their cartoonishness--Devo's robot moves create distance, a margin of safety, the way Kiss's makeup does. But the Meat Loaf connection is deeper, because this is real midnight-movie stuff--the antihumanist sci-fi silliness, the reveling in decay, the thrill of being in a cult that could attract millions and still seem like a cult, since 200 million others will never even get curious. (It's no surprise to be told that a lot of their ideas come from Eraserhead, but who wants to go see Eraserhead to make sure?) What makes this group worthy of attention at all--and now we're back with Kiss, though at a more complex level--is the catchy, comical, herky-jerky rock and roll they've devised out of the same old basic materials. In small doses it's as good as novelty music ever gets, and there isn't a really bad cut on this album. But it leads nowhere. B+