Devo: Recombo DNA

Devo: Recombo DNA

Devo: Recombo DNA
Label: Rhino Handmade
Release Date: 2000
Recording Date: 1976-1981
Review Date: 2002

Devo fans of the world unite! Pioneers Who Got Scalped may have been Doodie Now for the future, but Recombo DNA is Booji Boy’s revenge. Recombo DNA is an excellent, if expensive addition to your Devo collection, provided your obsessive.

The first disc spans 1977 to 1981, and the second spans 1981 to 1987, with most of the tracks being from the first half of the eighties.. This covers the period just after their independent releases to the year prior to signing with Enigma. Just as mentioned in the compiler’s notes, This volume of recordings will more than likely be purchased by people who already own extracurricular Devo. The material is a good mix of styles and recording quality that ranges from demos cleaned and transferred from cassette tapes to very polished demos that are essentially pre-production finalized versions of songs that made it to vinyl. The latter category includes alternate band-produced versions of the Freedom of Choice album. Most of the tracks are taken from 7 and 10 inch masters. The compiler has done his best to make sure that different eras of Devolution are present, although I don’t know if I agree with him when he says that some people prefer the later era more danceable tracks. I don’t think anyone did, otherwise they wouldn’t have had to pack it in.

The packaging on Recombo DNA is excellent. It may smell funny, but it’s packed with graphics and notes concerning individual tracks and the sessions that spawned them. A lot of the artwork comes from the decorated master tape boxes, lyric sheets and band doodles from the time of the inception of the songs. All the tracks are supposedly unreleased (except for two that were extras on a CD-rom from a computer game. Some songs contain different lyrics than those that eventually mutated onto vinyl. Other songs never made it to vinyl and only survive as electromagnetic experiments or live performances. If you prefer the older-rawer Devo, than you may find new life in tracks that may have only tolerated in the past. If you prefer the more polished Devo than you get the excitement of hearing the song’s genesis. In one case you get to hear different lyrics and vocals with the same music. Thankfully, that only happens once, especially since it’s not that good a song to begin with.

Devo: Recombo DNA

The first disc is a lot stronger than the first, but the discrepancy is no where near as lopsided as with Pioneers Who Got Scalped. When it starts to drag a little it picks up again with two compositions that were ironically started during the Oh No, It’s Devo! era, and then cleaned up and finished in 1998 for the “Interstate ’82” video game. The rest of the tracks were demos made after Warner Brothers and Devo parted ways, but before they signed to Enigma. These tracks are OK, but not great. By this time Devo seemed to lose focus and indeed originality as evidenced by not-so-creative use of samplers and sequencers and an decidedly un-Devo like lack of a sense of humor and energy. One strange track features the Devo side of Toni Basil. If you can remember who she was then you’ll know why this one is one the most interesting parts of the latter half of the disc. The last track is fairly good later-era Devo. It’s a marthon medley of new and old.

The liner notes indicate a great wealth of untapped Devo history. The compiler hints at further releases. Recombo DNA is a Rhino Handmade release, so it’s a little pricy at 40 bucks for two discs. If you’re not familiar with Rhino Handmade, here’s how it works: Rhino Handmade releases limited edition recordings with limited edition packaging that are gone when they sell them. That means they don’t re-release them if they sell out. One caveat, that doesn’t mean the recordings will never be released by another label, like Rhino Records, but at least they’ll be in a different package. Rhino Handmade releases are only available via their web site. This particular release is more extensive than some. It clocks in at 2 and half hours of music with two booklets in the double sized package. Recombo DNA is limited to 5,000 copies. At the time of this review, Recombo DNA was still available fully a year after it’s release.

I’d bless the General if Devo ever released a monster boxed set complete with a FAT bound volume of visual De-evolution. Until that happens, pick up Recombo DNA. It’s your duty now if you want to see more Devo in the future.

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Web sites recommended by the liner notes:

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