When Devo landed on the New York punk scene circa 1977, this ideas-driven, synth-obsessed combo from Akron, Ohio, fairly quickly became an object of ridicule, as much for their Darwin-contradicting theory of De-evolution, as for their matching boiler suits and swimming goggles.
These, however, were no dodgy New Wave arrivistes: The band’s origins stretched back to the early ’70s, and they were worthy electro-peers of the revered Kraftwerk. As this seminal collection of demos of proto-Devo shows, they — unlike Kraftwerk — chose to integrate synths into a standard guitar/bass/drums format. To avoid cliché, they made the traditional instruments sound even weirder than the new ones. Witness the scratchily insectoid guitar on their take on The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” — funky enough to become a retro hit circa electroclash, but deeply unsettling.
Also familiar to Devo-tees will be “Jocko Homo” (their De-evolution anthem) and “Mongoloid,” which showed up on 1978′s Brian Eno-produced Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! album. Hardcore, however, is filled with more-than-faintly pervy avant-pop curiosities, otherwise unheard, like “Midget,” “Buttered Beauties” and “Auto Mo Down/Space Girl Blues.”
The original late ’80s release of this demo collection featured arty snaps of the band either wrapped in giant condoms, or dressed in women’s clothing while committing depraved acts. Hardcore, as per the title, represents this remarkable group in the raw, uncut, yet gloriously ripe for mainstreaming.