Ohio has produced a startling number of powerhouse musical forces—jazz/R&B genius Jimmy Scott, shock-rock pioneer Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, hard country thug Johnny Paycheck, the Cramps’ Lux Interior, the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, art-rock overlords Pere Ubu—but quasi-scientific, semi-techno new wave/punk bizarros Devo seemingly broke the mold.
Perhaps the Buckeye State’s unlikeliest-ever candidates for international stardom, the flower-pot-topped sensations managed to emerge from status as rulers of a tight-knit cult to achieve a mind-bending degree of success. Combining sardonic, elliptical humor with a cryptic, self-propelled philosophy of Are We Not Men? astrophysical order, Devo’s irresistibly offbeat approach reached far beyond the dance floor and into the public’s monkey brain, first scrambling up the receptors and then blowing them wide open with a critical series of classic records.
Songs like “Uncontrollable Urge,” with it’s pummeling punk majesty, and their sublimely spastic re-working of “Satisfaction” drew listeners into unexplored regions that nobody else was visiting, and by the time “Whip It” pushed the band over the top, they had not only established themselves as groundbreaking artists who traded in a sophisticated discipline of symbolism and expression, they also delivered more twitchy, crazy fun than just about anyone could stand. Devo, as they exist today, positively excel at that weird mixture, and whenever they hit the bandstand, the layers of philosophical content, untamed musicality and just-for-the-hell-of-it glee pile up with a positively euphoric effect. Devolution is real.
Devo at the Key Club at Morongo, 49500 Seminole Dr., Cabazon, (888) 667-6646; www.keyclubmorongo.com. Thurs., Oct. 26, 9 p.m. $75-$100. 18+.