Devo (Photo credit: Pinc Floit)
When a band records a TV theme song, it’s very often a throwaway thing. Probably the only band that treats their theme song work with any level of dedication is They Might Be Giants, and even [T]hey have a few half-assed ones. From the beginning, the odds are stacked against this new DEVO cut, a theme song for a SyFy reality show that Gerald Casale even admits was “written in 15 minutes.” Thankfully, we caught a break. “Monsterman,” however is surprisingly good. The song is built on a pounding beat, like the footsteps of the monster in a kaiju film. It feels almost like DEVO doing metal, all crunching guitar and pounding drums around a steady arpeggiated bass line. Bob 1 delivers a blistering solo in the bridge, and a synthesizer line beeps it’s way though the whole thing like a telegraph. Lyrically, it paints the portrait of someone who is quite mentally disturbed. There’s a reference to the “house of pain,” an Island of Dr. Moreau/Island of Lost Souls shout out that always pleases me in DEVO’s work. Not bad for a fifteen minute rush job.
The best part of the single, however, is the music video. DEVO mimes the song on a rooftop as a Godzilla-esque beast starts smashing up a model city. Clad in silver full-head masks with functioning jaws, and wearing digital camo outfits, they look like (sub)urban robots, monitoring the surreality of the situation. Mark summons up an Ultraman stand in, and they begin to lay waste to each other and the surrounding cardboard metropolis. As the battle grows ever more intense, DEVO themselves become victims, set alight by the monster’s fiery breath, and crushed when the giant monster finally collapses into their building. Fade to black as sirens and car alarms wail.
As any hardcore DEVO-tee knows, or should know, camp sci-fi has been a big part of the DEVO aesthetic. After all, they used to perform a song, “The Words Get Stuck in My Throat,” from 1966’s War of the Gargantuas. It’s only fitting that the band that claimed they’d one day own a recombinant DNA lab, and make audiences defecate themselves with subsonic frequencies now has their own B-movie monster flick and theme song. Sure, the monster movie is only two minutes long, but it’s the two minutes that are the best part of any monster movie. The song itself’s worth a buck on its own, but for $2.49 on iTunes, the video gives you more than your money’s worth. As for the TV show it was written for, I can’t judge, but it is a reality show. DEVO themselves appear on the season finale, which is about the making of the video. It might get me to turn SyFy on at last.