Most under-rated band.....ever
It is a well-received truth amongst certain friends of mine and myself that the most under-rated band of all time is surely DEVO. Though we agree on this and generally agree on why (the evil monikers "New Wave" and "one-hit wonder", terms we suspect we invented to disable the meaning of the word "punk"), it's hard to really understand why DEVO never got its well-deserved hipster reawakening, where people realized what a treasure we had all along.
There a couple of immediately obvious reasons that DEVO never took off as the epitome of hip that my friends and I know that they are. One reason is the loathing for heavy synthesizers that has grown to be a tenet of the hipster rock fan faith, a loathing that is born out of the noxious and growing fear of femininity that is material for another post. (Though fear of femininity is pretty much my favorite explanation for the resurgence of faux admiration for really, really crappy cock rock and even hair metal like The Darkness.) The other reason is that despite the fact that it's hip and charming to confess to a certain amount of nerdiness, particularly past nerdiness like say, Star Wars fandom, DEVO is openly intellectual and unrepentantly nerdy. Most hipsters will never truly embrace nerdiness; they are just too damn concerned about their image and many of them are actually ashamed of the heights of their nerdiness. (I don't know why I say "them" like I don't know what it's like to be a hipster hiding evidence of painful nerdiness in the past.)
But those two reasons only explain why people who aren't familiar with DEVO won't like DEVO. In fact, if you take a non-DEVO fan who really, really likes music, you have an easy convert to the DEVO cause. My boyfriend came over to the dark side upon getting rather fascinated with DEVO's love of whacked out basslines ("Whip It" is actually a stellar example of this), and became even more intrigued when I pointed out that nerdy math knowledge probably has a lot to do with that. No, a number of people are more than familiar with DEVO's music and even know that they are a punk band in the "classic" sense, and yet they still don't get it. Part of that is that they too have absorbed the fear of the nerdy and the feminine, but another part of it is that DEVO seems to actually be pretty hard to get.
Listen to DEVO much at all and you will become acquainted with the concept of de-volution that they espouse. De-volution is a seeminingly simple concept that humanity has evolved as far as we can and now we are de-volving. This creates a sort of chaos in their music, swinging back and forth from sarcasm to anger to an almost sweetness. It also means that they are good at capturing truths about the links between conformity, fascism, stupidity, happiness, ignorance and fear that are hard to articulate intellectually but definitely exist in our culture on an emotional level.
We don't want to know this, that we are drawn towards conformity and ignorance and that it's leaving us open to embracing totalitarianism and possibly fascism. I know that's a weird transistion but I think it's one of the reasons that alot of people who should know better give the shaft to DEVO. They are very entertaining and completely hilarious and it's easy to get into the fun and then they will hit you over the head with the shameful fact that you, yes even you, are drawn towards conformity and it leaves you open to making immoral choices. In fact, you are doing it even now. They are mostly fun, but occassionally they catch you and make you look at your own self and it's uncomfortable. So alot of people just ignore them.
So, listen to DEVO. They don't let you feel self-righteous, but they are also so fun that if you can get over that they are a blast. They are great musicians. And since de-volution really has been accelerating over time (think about all the people who supported Pat Buchanan's run for real), they can help you understand.