Devo, JP Inc. | The Vic | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Devo, JP Inc. Tickets Available Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Thu., Nov. 12, 8 p.m. and Fri., Nov. 13, 8 p.m. 2009

It's robotic and jerky and stuffed with artsy spiel about "de-evolution," but to my ears Devo's 1978 debut album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (Warner Brothers), remains one of the greatest rock records ever made. Mark Mothersbaugh worked hard to be the antithesis of the cool front man, and between his bizarre vocals—simultaneously detached and hyperactive—and the catchy, off-kilter riffs, the songs struck just the right nerve, becoming subversive classics in spite of their conceptual freight. That's not to say Devo's philosophy was always a liability; their satire could be sharp and hilarious. But it worked best when it complemented the music, and eventually their combination of dystopian cynicism and faux futurism overshadowed their jittery punk bite—an unfortunate shift paralleled by the band's move from a mostly guitar-based sound toward a synth-dependent one. All the same, there are some great songs on their later albums, and several turn up on 1980's Freedom of Choice, which spawned the smash "Whip It." Next year Devo will release their first album since 1990, tentatively titled Fresh Devo, but on this trip they're playing Are We Not Men? and Freedom of Choice front to back, the first record on Thursday and the second on Friday—both were reissued earlier this month in remastered editions with live tracks from the band's recent tours. The live cuts from Are We Not Men? don't have the snap and excitement of the album versions, but I'm still psyched to see Devo play the whole album in the flesh, even if it is obvious that three decades have gone by. "If we looked like we were yellow cheeseburgers in 1979," Mothersbaugh told me in an interview four years ago, "in 2005 we're kind of like double-patty cheeseburgers." &mdash Peter Margasak

Price: $41, 18+

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