Record Review: Oh No, It’s DEVO DLX RM

infinite Zero | US | CD | 1995 | 9 43024-2

infinite Zero | US | CD | 1995 | 9 43024-2

DEVO: Oh No, It’s DEVO DLX RM US CD [1995]

  1. Time Out For Fun
  2. Peek-A-Boo!
  3. Out Of Sync
  4. Explosions
  5. That’s Good
  6. Patterns
  7. Big Mess
  8. Speed Racer
  9. What I Must Do
  10. I Desire
  11. Deep Sleep
  12. Part Of You
  13. Find Out
  14. Peek-A-Boo! (Dance Velocity)
  15. Peek-A-Boo! (Devo Dub)
  16. Here To Go (Go Mix Version)
  17. Here To Go (Here To Dub Version)

I’ll admit that I was not paying rapt attention to Rick Rubin and Henry Rollins’ Infinite Zero label when they surfaced with it in the mid 90s. I noted that several New Wave and Post-Punk albums came back in print due to their largesse, but I already had the Virgin UK twofers that were salted with bonus tracks and those were paid for and in my Record Cell. I was not obsessive enough about DEVO to have bothered with the Infinite Zero reissues at the time. It remained until last decade that I even bothered buying the “Shout” DLX RM and that was only because I had never bothered to hear the album at any point in time! But used, in a local bin, it gained some cachet.

There is a similar tale for the “Oh No, It’s DEVO” album. The Virgin twofer had the 12″ mix of “Peek-A-Boo!!” appended, and at the time, that had been enough for me. But last week, while at a used media emporium, I saw this edition, and I was aware that they had resale value above and beyond what the cover price was, so I snapped it up. But having heard it, I’m not flipping this disc. It is possibly the best of the DEVO Infinite Zero reissues for its generous, if slightly vexing, serving of bonus material.

First of all, this was the last classic period DEVO album that seemed to have mattered. Even so, the negative traits that caused me to abandon the spuds back in the 80s, were fully blown by the time that Roy Thomas Baker [?!] got it all down on tape. Not that it was of importance who was producing, since the band were dogged in their determination to control the whole shebang, as Brian Eno famously found out when attempting to produce their debut. Those negative traits were as follows: rigid, metronomic tempos, digital synths, a diminishing of guitars to the point of nil, and crucially, replacing Alan Myers with drum machines. The last in particular, hurt the band immeasurably to my ears.

This version of the album is singular in that it contained six bonus tracks; by far the most generous edition of this album ever. Not the least of which is the first of these, the song “Part Of You.” The track was a previously unreleased cut that from the sound of the recording, might have been an unissued track from the “New Traditionalist” sessions. The synth percussion recalls “Race Of Doom” from that record. It’s handily more vibrant than many of the tracks from “Oh No.”

devo - peekabooUS12AThe “Peek-A-Boo!!” 12″ single appeared on this edition with all three tracks given an airing. “Peek-A-Boo!! [Dance Velocity]” was a CD track on the Virgin twofer, but the 12″ B-sides also appear here, for the first [and only] time. “Peek-A-Boo!! [DEVO dub]” is a nice long dub mix clocking in at nearly 5:30, but the single’s B-side is the excellent “Find Out,” a track that I like better than most of what’s on the album! It sounds like possibly the last time that Alan Myers played acoustic drums for the band, giving the track some much-needed grounding that other mid-period tracks lack. I realize that MIDI makes it “easy” to synch every fershlugginer thing to a drum machine pulse, but that doesn’t mean that you should do it! Especially when the band in question has as deft a timekeeper as Myers was!

delo - thatsgoodUSP12AWeirdly enough, the last two bonus tracks here were from the “Here To Go” single that was released from the band’s next album, “Shout!” Even weirder, the Infinite Zero DLX RM of that title, only had the “Shout [E-Z Listening Version]” that was the B-side to the “Here To Go” 12″ single. While I appreciate having the remixes of “Here To Go” on CD, it would have made more sense on the “Shout” CD reissue. Crucially, there is a 12″ that I have that ties in with the album in question here, the “That’s Good” US Promo 12″ single. It featured promo only remixes of “That’s Good” and “Speed Racer” which by all rights should have been on this reissue, but for one reason or another, are still in digital limbo. As such, these two cuts represent an opportunity still not taken.

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10 Responses to Record Review: Oh No, It’s DEVO DLX RM

  1. Echorich says:

    DEVO without the human metronome/Alan Myers driving the song is not really DEVO for me. I have to say after Freedom Of Choice there are few DEVO songs that interest me. But the first 3 albums are part of the core collection for me.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – “New Traditionalists” is my line in the sand. I just love some of those songs so much. And it’s still pretty analog, but by ONID the dark path was abundantly clear. Digital cartoons were their future, sadly. That said, I kind of liked “Total DEVO!” Songwise, any way. I have never heard anything past that, but at this point, I might as well hear the rest. I’m considering it, any way.

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  2. While I don’t disagree with the negative traits you mentioned, I love this album to pieces anyway. In part because the songs are still solid, the performances are good, but mostly because I love both the videos and “art direction” which the band kept consistent for their live shows (and still do a variation of that idea today).

    I do not have a copy to hand to verify this, but I believe the Monk is mistaken (!!) about the lack of Alan Myers on this album. He is obviously on the cover and credited on Wikipedia as having played drums on the album. “Human drum machine” INDEED!!

    There are plenty of standout tracks on this record, including “Time Out for Fun,” “Out of Sync,” “That’s Good,” “Big Mess,” “Speed Racer” and “What I Must Do,” the latter of which is still performed (along with “Peek a Boo” and “That’s Good”) at the most recent concerts I’ve seen them play.

    To me this is the last GREAT original Devo album, though I have to say that “Watch Us Work It” and Something For Everybody prove you can return to greatness with great effort. Even their later, lesser efforts had a few gems among the wreckage …

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Oh, Alan Myers was still in the band, but he was not playing acoustic drums. It was all Simmons or programming. I just listened to “Freedom Of Choice” yesterday afternoon, and the overly synthetic sheen on ONID is to its detriment, but basically, I agree. That was the last great DEVO album. I’ve not heard the new one, but I’m beginning to crack on “Smooth Noodle Maps” and saw it in the bins at the same place where I bought the DLX RM of ONID. They also had a copy of “Something For Everybody” there, but as I was buying “Slings + Arrows” the complete boxed set and season 1 of “Sherlock” on DVD, the cash for music [gasp] was diminished. Once I have the last three albums, that DEVO Rock G.P.A. can commence! By the way, thanks so much for the use of style tags in your comments!

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      • Taffy says:

        i’m gonna chime in an agreement as well, that Oh, No! was the last Devo album worth investing in (altho I own Shout too, cuz Here To Go was too damn catchy to ignore).
        Meanwhile, That’s Good is one of my top three favorite Devo songs, and I can’t deny that a teeny contributing factor to that is the video, complete with french fry “penetrating” a donut. What better way for those spudboy dorks to portray sex?!

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Taffy – The wild thing was that MTV refused to play the clip for “That’s Good”… not because of the french fry animation. They were fine with sexual metaphor. What MTV objected to was the shot immediately afterward with the woman showing a look of pleasure on her face! The extended mix I refer to should have been more widely available!

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  3. JT says:

    Yes, me too, ONID is the last great Devo record.

    The synths, by the way, are still analog, and this record was still pre-MIDI. The slick sheen came from other sources. I do believe that Alan physically played drums on most of the tracks, but yes, they were electronic, for sure. Watch live footage and music videos for further evidence. There is also guitar on almost every song on this record, but it is so polished and set low in the mix that you have to listen to pick it out… it often reads like another synth.

    Shout’s synths were all Fairlight and it sure sounds like it. The Fairlight was used to such great effect in obvious ways like on the early Art of Noise records, and more subtly on Kate Bush’s The Dreaming (almost every tune features Fairlight on it somewhere), but oddly, Devo and samplers just didn’t mix.

    The first truly digital synths appeared on Total Devo, which has its moments, but is for hardcore fans only. Skip skip skip Smooth Noodle Maps (knowing you to the degree that I do, Monk, I predict that you will abjectly loathe it), but do give Something for Everybody a spin. It has moments.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – Yes, sampling was the ruin of many, but not Kate Bush, as you correctly point out! She and Peter Gabriel were two of the best users of the technology in my opinion. Hell, so were Heaven 17 with their paving slab percussion! It was when people realized you could bite records that any creativity went bye bye as sampled hooks and riffs predominated, sadly. Creative use of samplers was always in the minority.

      Hmmm. I think I like “Total DEVO” more than you do, which is why I’m buckling on “Smooth Noodle Maps” after 24 years! Even though I hated, HATED “Post-Post Modern Man!” I am interested in finally hearing the whole DEVO story… at least the straight albums. All of the specialty albums they have represent almost a parallel, underground career to delve into. I have the first Hardcore volume, and the RSD live from last year, but that’s about it.

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  4. IIRC, my pal Phantom Third Channel and I played “Subhuman Woman” on a recent new Crusty Old Wave broadcast. That’s the test of true Devo fandom!

    As for post-ONID late-80s/early 90s albums, you could take the best bits of those records and make one pretty good Devo album out of them, I think. I’d have to review those albums again, but as I mentioned before, I can usually find a few gems in there — “Baby Doll” is one of my favourite Devo 12″ releases ever.

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