Devo: Are We Not Men? (1978)
Now, in order to talk Devo, we really do need some stage-setting. It's all about context.
Early '80s, a midwestern suburb north of Chicago. My high school was near Lake Michigan; rich kids living near the Lake, the rest of us further inland. Almost universally white. High stress environment, nightmares about the SAT and getting into the right Big Ten college and the cool fraternity/sorority, maybe even a private university out east. The sort of privileged environment depicted in Risky Business (I saw it for the first time sitting in the same theater that Tom Cruise drives by in his dad's Porsche in the film), and given a sunshiny gauze in John Hughes' oeuvre, Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club and the rest.
Blandness and materialism on the rise -- Reagan in the White House; a rollback of the progress of the 60s and the post-Nixon 70s. The Preppy Handbook viewed by many as an actual bible, not satire. The kind of place where the underbelly was kept hidden, surfacing mainly when you'd read about the father of that kid in your AP science class being arrested for insider trading, or when PBS would run a documentary about teen drug abuse and suicide in the 'burbs.
Kids listening to Journey, to Zeppelin; maybe some inroads by the Cars and the Police and the Go-Go's. The top singles the month I started high school were "Sailing" by Christopher Cross" and "It's Still Rock & Roll To Me" by Billy Joel and "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John.
And somehow Devo managed to infiltrate. Obviously "Whip It" got some traction, especially as MTV started taking over our households, but that felt kinda cartoonish, more like a novelty track. But MTV spurred on other late-night cable competition, like Night Flight on the USA Network, which delved a bit deeper into the vaults than MTV. I think it was there that I first saw the video for Devo's "Jocko Homo." It was already a few years old at that point, but it was life-changing. The weird-ass introductory skit with Booji Boy and General Boy. Mark Mothersbaugh with that alien professor look and weird dance, like David Byrne only totally deranged; the rest of the band wearing stockings over their faces, like bankrobbers on acid; and everyone else with creepy medical masks (a prescient view of what we're living through today). Try to put yourself back there when you watch it.
Night Flight also started running the concert film Urgh! A Music War; it was a weird, disjointed collection of live clips from various new wave-oriented bands, from the popular to the fringe. And, again, Devo jumped out, so alien and foreign, "Uncontrollable Urge" both a bit more traditional and poppy than "Jocko" yet, when viewed with the band's odd costumes and herky-jerky yet choreographed moves, still a little frightening and revolutionary.