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DEVO “Going Under”

03/27/2011

The live version of “Going Under” that DEVO performed on the Total Devo tour is the most powerful song they ever recorded.  Not powerful in the sense of the impact it had on the culture (“Whip It”, “Jocko Homo” or even “Beautiful World” – among others – were clearly more influential), but from my normal perspective of sitting around listening to music.  Being a moderately obsessive DEVO fan helps, I guess:  Part of the reason I love this song is because it’s one of the few from their early years that reappeared in a new form with every one of the band’s reinventions.  Under the title “All Of Us” (starts at 5:41 in this clip), the first two verses are the same lyrics as “Going Under” with a guitar-led dirge as the musical background on the phenomenal Hardcore Devo, Vol. 2: 1974-1977 compilation.  The last verse is some primitively awkward/offensive caveman shit (“Bad girl laughing, floppy tits!”) that fits in more with the The Beginning Was The End influence that dominated their formative years.  I don’t know of any recordings during the band’s flurry of activity following the release of the “Jocko Homo” single, but the song reappears as “Going Under” in the typical electro-new wave style of 1981’s New Traditionalists, sterilized to fit the band’s then-current mockery of the early Reagan years.  In 1987, DEVO released Muzak versions of a number of their songs on the E-Z Listening Disc and “Going Under” made the cut here with a notably different arrangement that formed the foundation for the tour version of the next year, documented on the hit-and-miss live album Now It Can Be Told.  With all that history of DEVO’s rise and fall, the frustration of “a place where dreams get crushed, hopes are smashed, but that ain’t much” seems to ring a little truer.

And the highlight of the show for me came early on, as they played it (NuTra version) at ACL Live tonight, about five songs in.

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