Gerry Casale, Devo’s bassist, said his visionary new wave band grew out of a response to the political turmoil following the 1970 shootings at Kent State, where all three founding members were art students. On the other hand, Michael Gossard, Devo 2.0’s 13-year-old bassist, says he’s inspired by his martial arts training, which has earned him a black belt.
Devo 2.0, the brainchild of Casale, keyboardist Mark Mothersbaugh, and execs at the Disney Sound record label, is a band of tween kids covering Devo songs. For this first batch of recordings, Casale and Mothersbaugh re-recorded old hits like ‘Whip It’, then got lead singer Nicole Stoehr, 12, to add new vocals to them. On the DVD, the other band members pretend to play their instruments to the tracks in a low-budget performance space while neon cartoons of well-dressed potatoes and dancing dinosaurs play on screens behind them. Of course, these videos are baffling. But despite the fact these songs are being sugarcoated for a Disney Channel audience, nothing about Devo 2.0 is too divergent from what the original Devo was all about. Über-peppy songs like ‘Beautiful World’ and ‘That’s Good’ were exaggerated to exemplify the “de-evolution” of culture, and what’s more devolutionary than grown men reincarnated as idealistic, prepubescent boys and girls? The only difference is that the flower-potted heads of Devo 1.0 held the brains behind what they were doing, while most of the Devo 2.0 kids hadn’t even heard of the band — or the concept — until they auditioned for this project.
Still, the songs are left relatively untouched, and the DVD interviews with both the kids and the original band members are surprisingly interesting. All five of the newcomers channel Devo’s overzealous ‘That’s Pep!’ mentality, and their total ingenuousness only adds to the absurdity of the whole project. All these kids want to do is jump on trampolines and play catchy music. They may not be men, but they might as well be Devo.