Q: Are we not Devo? A: No, we are U-Bahn!
Henry Rollins – he of the bulging neck and uncomfortable machismo – is a huge fan of Devo. Despite his personality and music career suggesting that he’s never enjoyed anything ever (especially a band as fun as Devo), Rollins will tell anybody who’ll listen that he absolutely loves Devo, and has shown in the past that he has rather exceptional taste in other people’s music.
Henry Rollins also likes Melbourne new wavin’ Booji boys U-Bahn - because he likes Devo. He told somebody somewhere that he likes U-Bahn because they sound like Devo, and now a quote from Rollins leads off all of U-Bahn's press material. So there’s that.
One thing we can all agree on is that U-Bahn sound exactly like Devo. Uncannily so. Scarily so. Specifically, U-Bahn sound like the golden era of Devo, from their debut (1978) to the sadly overlooked New Traditionalists (1981). Some U-Bahn songs are rough-edged approximations of Devo songs, and some are blatant rip-offs.
For instance, “Turbulent Love”, the second track on the U-Bahn record, sounds remarkably similar to “It’s Not Right”, the second track from Devo’s 1980 masterpiece Freedom of Choice. “War of Currents” (U-Bahn) sounds a little too similar to “Going Under” (Devo). “Beta Boyz” borrows liberally from Devo’s version of the Stones’ “Satisfaction”.
Other times, they write songs that don’t sound like existing Devo songs, they write songs that sound like missing tracks from Devo albums. But this is all done in good fun, with tongues planted firmly in cheeks. This isn’t a piss-take, and they never attempt to hide their affection for this music. This is sincere, open and honest.
When they do stray from the Devo path, they tread into adjacent fields – Ariel Pink (“Damp Sheets” and “Right Swipe”), Oingo Boingo (“Scantly Clad”)… But by and large, they stick to the Spud road.
What with imitation being the greatest form of flattery, this must be one of the most flattering albums of all time. This is music by Devo fans, for Devo fans, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.