Revenge of the Nerds Pt.1

Arguably Devo paved the way for MTV with their early videos, especially the short film that would eventually be released as the clip for “Jocko Homo.” Shot when the group was more art school project than actual band, the video won a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1976. Even in 2015, “Jocko Homo” is crude, a little creepy and absolutely mesmerizing.

Devo’s satirical aesthetic upended the utopian ideal of the counterculture; the human race wasn’t progressing it was going backwards. Devolving. Another subversive element surfaces here as well, a kind of nerdy populism amplified in subsequent Devo videos and albums. “We’re Through Being Cool.”  And right from the start, Devo’s music (as well as the visuals) was both prescient and hugely influential, foreshadowing and then defining new wave with its synthesizers, herky-jerky beats, affectless vocals and catchy chanted choruses. The Future Is Now, as a later title put it, so why swim against the technological tide? Dive right in and enjoy because we’re all DEVO.

In 1981, the original “Jocko Homo” video was a staple of the pre-MTV club playlists. I always felt a nostalgic rush at the opening scene, set in an Akron parking lot. Ah, the great grey industrial Midwest. I didn’t miss it that much. And Booji Boy’s slithery geek dance perfectly segues into David Byrne’s shock-treatment twitch in “Once In A Lifetime” (see Revenge of the Nerds Pt.2)

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