“We Are Drowning in a Devolved World”: Devo founder Gerald Casale reflects on their legacy

By on December 7, 2018

Devo founder Gerald Casale asks: “Is there any question that De-evolution is real?”

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We thought we’d share a couple of excerpts from Casale’s recent post for Vice — “We Are Drowning in a Devolved World: An Open Letter from Devo” (December 6, 2018) — in which he “reflects on its dystopian legacy in the age of Trump.”

“Presently, the fabric that holds a society together has shredded in the wind. Everyone has their own facts, their own private Idaho stored in their expensive cellular phones. The earbuds are in, the feedback loops are locked, and the Frappuccino’s are flowing freely. Social media provides the highway straight back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.”

“The restless natives react to digital shadows on the wall, reduced to fear, hate, and superstition. There are climate change deniers, and there are even more who think that the climate is being maliciously manipulated by corporate conglomerates owned by the Central Bank to achieve global control of resources and wealth.”

“If only that James Bond-style fantasy were true, I would be much more excited about the future, which I fear is more of a slow-death conspiracy of dunces like in Mike Judge’s movie, Idiocracy, the movie Devo should have made.”

We’re huge Devo fans here at Night Flight HQ, and we’ve written a bunch of blogs about them before, and have been supportive of Casale’s and the band’s bid to be inducted into Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame (they’re currently nominated for the honor after being eligible for fifteen years).

We can’t think of a better way to persuade you than to encourage you to check out The Men Who Make the Music: Devo.

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This vintage Devo film combines raucous live concert footage of the band (shot in October 1978 at the Starwood club in West Hollywood, CA, as well as some footage shot in late ’78 and early ’79), along with five of their music videos and quirky filmed interludes telling a vague story about the Akron, Ohio band’s relationship with their bloated corporate record company “Big Entertainment,” representing the band’s actual label at the time, Warner Bros. Records.

In this post written for Vice, Casale talks a little about being a member of Students for a Democratic Society and witnessing his fellow students at Kent State University being fired upon by members of the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, a horrible event which Casale says “changed my life.”

(Read more, in Casale’s own words, here).

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Casale sums everything up in his VICE post this way:

“So, let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late. Perhaps the reason Devo was even nominated after 15 years of eligibility is because Western society seems locked in a death wish. Devo doesn’t skew so outside the box anymore. Maybe people are a bit nostalgic for our DIY originality and substance.”

“We were the canaries in the coalmine warning our fans and foes of things to come in the guise of the Court Jester, examples of conformity in extremis in order to warn against conformity. We were certainly not the one-hit wonders the dismissive rock press likes to say we were. We have always been the Rodney Dangerfields of Rock ‘N’ Roll. We were polarizing because we did not ‘play ball’ with the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll messaging dictum.”

“But today Devo is merely the house band on the Titanic. With three generations of fans, 10 studio albums, five live albums, scores of singles, scores of music videos (a format which we pioneered), and eight world tours committed to history since our 1978 debut record Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, we’ve all too chillingly stood the test of time.”

“2020 will be the 40th anniversary of our Freedom of Choice record. Don’t be surprised to see us on tour then in our iconic, red Energy Domes, careening toward the latest Presidential election/selection. Speaking truth to power is a never-ending battle. In the best-case scenario, we avoid sinking into the abyss and, as a society, scratch ourselves back to square one.”

“Is there any question that De-evolution is real?”

Read the entire post here, and thanks Jerry, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Watch The Men Who Make the Music: Devo — on Night Flight Plus!

(h/t) Vice

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.