Primitives badges

primitives_badges

Format: badge

Year: 2013

Purchased at: Primitives Official Website

Price paid: about £3.50

 

There’s something about having a badge that just makes you feel so official. – Gloria Reuben

Where would rock be without the leather jacket? And where would the leather jacket be without at least a few badges conveying the wearer’s passions?

This set of four 1″ badges (or straight-back buttons) was a website exclusive, now discontinued. Released during the ‘Echoes and Rhythms’ period, the header art harkens back to the band’s earliest ‘Lazy’ years in terms of style and color.

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Devo 2.0: DEV2.0

devo20a

Format: CD/DVD 2-pack

Label: Walt Disney Records

Country: US

Year: 2006

 


The true genius shudders at incompleteness, and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be. – Edgar Allan Poe

It’s my hope that- if nothing else- this blog will occasionally provide a service, bringing music to the attention of those that may have inadvertently overlooked a real gem. This is one of those gems…

The Devo 2.0 project was straightforward in concept- Take a bunch of kids, give them Devo songs to cover, throw a bunch of Disney’s money at it, and watch the whole mess crash and burn under its own ridiculous weight.

dev20fSimple, right? Except something went horribly wrong… or horribly right, depending on your point of view. The music is actually GOOD. Well produced and executed, the vocals are more than competent. The songs are catchy, family friendly (gasp), with a generous spattering of delicious subversive irony that old school Devo fans require.

Speaking of the older hardcore fans- where were they when all this was going down? You’d think they’d be all over this shit like Oprah on a honey baked ham! Yet I never hear Devo 2.0’s named mentioned; looking at Amazon there’s a scant FIVE reviews of this album. I don’t get it.

Maybe people thought this was a joke, or at best Devo sticking it to ‘the man’ by working hand-in-hand with Disney and churning out dumbed down mainstream swill suitable only for tween radio filler in the process? Ironically they would be right… but that’s only half the equation. Admittedly I haven’t delved deeply into the copious amounts of interview footage on disc two where Devo (the original) wax poetic and get all conceptual. For the purposes of this review I don’t find it necessary. I get it.

Devo 2.0 are a delicious, bubbly, extremely listenable slap in the face to pretentious music snobs everywhere. Perhaps calling it a ‘challenge’ would be more accurate- if you embraced the heady conceptualism of the Devo treatise back in the day, then Devo 2.0 must be welcomed as well. Their mere existence taunts you with a catch-22 that demands your participation and questions your very integrity as a Devo fan.

Coming back down to earth…

It was touted at the time that the music was actually performed by the kids themselves, but even then it seemed highly implausible. The original Devo provide the actual music with the exception of vocalist Nicole Stoehr. The lyrics of the classic Devo songs were changed often and freely. This was done to make some of the more ‘adult’ themes of the classics more family friendly, but to me the unique lyrics are an amusing alternative and a cute breath of fresh air to songs I’ve been listening to for twenty plus years.

Disc one is audio:

  • That’s Good
  • Peek A Boo
  • Whip It
  • Boy U Want
  • Uncontrollable Urge
  • Cyclops
  • The Winner
  • Big Mess
  • Jerkin’ Back ‘N Forth
  • Through Being Cool
  • Freedom Of Choice
  • Beautiful Choice

Disc two is video:

  • That’s Good
  • Big Mess
  • Whip It
  • Freedom of Choice
  • Uncontrollable Urge
  • Peek A Boo
  • Cyclops
  • Beautiful World
  • Boy U Want

Plus DVD bonus features:

  • DEV2.0 Interviews
  • DEV2.0 Photo Gallery
  • Why DEV2.0?
  • Original De-evolutionists
  • DEV2.0 Animations
Singers Mark Mothersbaugh and Nicole Stoehr discuss the craft

Singers Mark Mothersbaugh and Nicole Stoehr discuss the craft

So you get an audio disc, a DVD with nine full videos, probably close to an hour’s worth of bonus interviews (many with original Devo), still galleries, and an ‘animation’ section which features all of the slick animated backgrounds used in the videos. The videos themselves (see example above) are bright, colorful, and a real joy to watch, bringing an extra layer of infantile subversion to the proceedings. Graphically the package design itself is a work of art, staying true to the Devo design aesthetic while updating it for this most special mutation.

Considering this set can be had on Amazon used for about four bucks there’s no excuse not to get one. If, after picking one up, you fail to see the brilliance here you clearly have no sense of humor nor irony… or just don’t grasp what Devo was all about in the first place.

Fun FactDevo 2.0’s keyboardist was Jacqueline Emerson, better known as Foxface from ‘The Hunger Games.’

Fun Fact 2Supposedly this album concept- with cutsie kids taking the reins of a well-established pop group- was meant to be an ongoing Disney project. The Go-Go’s were the next band slated to get the tweeny treatment, but alas it appears this never came to fruition…

devo20d

Liz Phair: Supernova / Combo Platter

lizphair_supernova

Format: 7″ (blue vinyl)

Label: Matador

Country: US

Year: 1994 Paid: $2

Purchased at: Square Records, Akron OH

 

Your eyelashes sparkle like gilded grass

And your lips are sweet and slippery like a cherub’s bare wet ass

‘Supernova’ was the first single to be released from Phair’s second album, 1994’s ‘Whip-Smart.’ It reached #6 on the US Alternative chart, #78 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remains her highest-charting song to date. It was nominated for ‘Best Female Rock Vocal Performance’ in the 37th Annual Grammy Awards, but she lost out to Sheryl Crow.

The sleeve design is colorful and adequately sparkly, but unremarkable in a generic way- not atypical of many indie sleeves of the period. The vinyl, being electric blue, bumps the cool factor up considerably however.

lizphair_supernova2

ABC: When Smokey Sings / Chicago

abc_whensmokeysings

Format: 12″

Label: Phonogram

Country: Canada

Year: 1987

Paid: $1

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

Elegance in eloquence for sale or rent or hire

Should I say yes I match his best then I would be a liar

Symphonies that sooth the rage

When lover’s hearts catch fire

‘When Smokey Sings’ is from ABC’s fourth album ‘Alphabet City.’ It reached number 11 on the UK singles chart and went all the way to number 1 on the US Billboard Billboard Dance/Club Chart.

This release features ‘The Miami Mix’ and ‘The Detroit Mix’ of the song, plus ‘Chicago: Parts 1 and 2’ on the B-side.

The song is a tribute to Smokey Robinson. Smokey himself was in the charts at the time (with ‘One Heartbeat’, #10 on the Billboard hot 100) marking a rare occasion where both an artist and a song about that artist shared top ten charts simultaneously.

The sleeve was designed by Keith Breeden and Mike Owen. Both have extensive back catalogs in music design- Breeden has designed for such bands as The Cult, Pink Floyd, and many other ABC projects while Owen has worked with Lene Lovich, Fun Boy 3, and Duran Duran. Not surprising then that the artwork is a classy and effortless affair.

Josie Cotton: Johnny Are you Queer? / (Let’s Do) The Blackout

josiecotton_johnny

Format: 12″

Label: Elektra

Country: US

Year: 1981

Paid: $3

Purchased at: Books and Melodies

 

Well I saw you today boy
Walking with the gay boys
God it hurt me so
Now I gotta know
Johnny are you queer?

It’s hard to imagine today just how subversive and radio unfriendly this song was at the time of release. Needless to say it failed to chart, but was fairly well known in the 80’s due to its inclusion in the ‘Valley Girl’ soundtrack. Back then I found it marginally sexist, but ultimately all in good fun as a modern take on the ‘girl pining for love’ theme popular in the fifties and sixties.

Josie has had somewhat of a resurgence of late, in no small part due to the gay community, where this song is seen as somewhat of an anthem. Not meant as a lifestyle judgement in any way, but personally I prefer the original sardonic wistfulness over the new patina of irony coupled with gay pride that the song seems to have acquired through modern reinterpretation.

This is the Elektra reissue, previously released on Bomp! Records the year before. The artwork is nearly identical on both, but in either case it’s simply brilliant. Not the best cartooning skills but an eye-catching, colorful masterpiece nonetheless. The cover design was done by Diane Zincavage (aka D. Zincavage aka D.Z., DeeZee aka Zincavage) who did art direction for west coast bands such as The Nuns, Pandoras, Agent Orange, T.S.O.L. and many others.

josiecotton_johnnyb

Big Daddy: Big Daddy… What Really Happened to the Band of ’59

bigdaddy_whatreally

Format: LP

Label: Rhino

Country: US

Year: 1983

Price paid: $3

Purchased at: Books and Melodies

 

“Big Daddy, a popular 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll combo, has recently returned home after being held captive for more than two decades by Communist Revolutionaries in North Laos…”

One of the major themes of American eighties pop culture was an obsession with all things 1950’s. I’m no sociologist, but I’m thinking the tensions of the Cold War coupled with Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ attitude sent people scrambling for the security of a (mostly idolized) period in America’s history where stability and prosperity shone brightly. Everything from fashion, movies such as ‘Back to the Future’, and of course music, resonated with mid-century modernisms.

Big Daddy took this trend a step further, taking musical styles such as Doo-wop and mutating 80’s hits through their anachronistic prism with humorous results. Sort of like if Shanana and Weird Al had a baby.

Track listing:

  • I Write the Songs
  • Bette Davis Eyes
  • Super Freak
  • Star Wars
  • Whip It
  • Ebony and Ivory
  • You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot
  • The Rose
  • Just What I Needed
  • Hotel California
  • Eye of the Tiger

‘Big Daddy… What Really Happened to the Band of ’59’ was the band’s first album. Admittedly the concept grows a tad thin quickly, but God bless ’em Big Daddy have been at it for well over a quarter century. They’ve released six studio albums to date, a ‘best of’ CD, and an EP. I was only familiar with the 80’s records, but they barreled through the 90s and released an LP as late as last year.

The sleeve design is typical of most early Rhino releases- unremarkable, but it gets the job done.

Bette Bright and the Illuminations: The Captain of Your Ship / Those Greedy Eyes

bettebright_captain

Format: 7″

Label: Radar Records (ADA 21)

Country: UK

Year: 1979

Paid: $3.86 (incl. shipping)

Purchased at: eBay

 

This is the captain of your ship, your heart speaking

We’ve run into a little storm, the boat’s leaking

And if you haven’t guessed, this is an S.O.S.

If you still love me answer yes

Post Deaf School but pre-‘Rhythm Breaks the Ice‘ Bette released a pair of singles with an interim band consisting of Glen Matlock (ex-Sex Pistol), Henry Priestman (formerly of The Yachts), and Rusty Egan (of Visage.)

Both were covers of 60’s girl group songs. The first was ‘My Boyfriend’s Back.’ This was the second, a cover of a 1968 Reparata and the Delrons tune.

 

 

The sleeve art is wonderfully corny. The pink and lime green color palette would become somewhat of a New Wave stereotype in later years, but here it seems fresh and new as the genre wrestled free from its grim and rather drab punk roots. Bette’s weird garb looks very similar to the low-cut dress she modeled on the previous year’s Deaf School album ‘English Boys/Working Girls‘… only worn backwards with the family-friendly addition of a matching bikini top.

Malcolm Garrett, the sleeve’s designer, worked on many covers for artists of the time including Buzzcocks (including the sublime ‘Orgasm Addict’), Richard Hell, and Duran Duran (including the ‘Rio’ LP.)

bettebright_captain2