Devo: Something for Everybody

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

devo00Twenty years since their last project, the New Wave scientists are back with an album full of redemption and new life

The iconic geometrically-altered coneheads of New Wave have ended their twenty-year hiatus from recording to jump back into the saddle of things – now facing a suppressed music industry now scanting towards a suicidal decline of creativity, spontaneity and career choices. For Devo, it’s the perfect time to get back into the race. Their satirical ideologies and their focus on mankind’s “de-evolution,” the dysfunction and deploring condition of American society, remains as focal in today’s world as their music. Embedded deep in their lyrics are their premonitions on the human race’s destructive escalation towards Doomsday. That surrounded around some of the coolest synths, flashy drum work and engaging ‘80s college-like rumpus gave Devo the fair advantage of breaking the mold of their campy novelty conventions. With all the original members and with Bird & the Bee synth wiz Greg Kurstin in place, Devo’s return on Something for Everybody feels just right in pop culture. With the over excesses of New Wave’s extensions and ‘80’s outrageous glam revivalism now piercing through everything in modern pop culture, the group best known for their MTV sensation “Whip It,” without much of a musical makeover, seem like a perfect fit.

“Fresh” embarks more of their familiar gimmicks; using exaggerations on mankind’s craves for what isn’t good. It’s a great way to open the set since the “Whip It” energy and juicy ‘80’s pop-rock (see Toni Basil’s “Mickey”) entices immediately. The hysterically funny “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” possibly the album’s protuberant highlight, is just as clever lyrically (“I’ve got a big dilemma to punt or go for broke/It’s got me goin’ sleepless and I’m about to choke”) as it is playfully melodic. On “Sumthin’” (short for the album title), listeners are reminded of their masterpiece “Whip It” with the use of occasional whip sounds and John Frese’s lightning-fast drum work paying homage to Alan Myers’ recognized performance.

What one would expect from classic ‘80’s Devo, especially from their big 1980 LP Freedom of Choice, is ever present here. The under-three-minute songs, the upbeat spirited tempo and the classic arcade synth bleeps – standard practice in Devology – are wittingly revived and their social satire, although it isn’t as razor-sharp and current (“al-Qaeda and the Taliban, fundamentally way out of hand/I keep tryin’ to turn it all around/But the New World Order wants to take me down”), is as good as it’s going to get for these aged prunes. But this prunes still kick ass and know how to make bad news sound so amusing. On “Mind Games,” you can even hear how they superbly inject Atari-mimicked sounds into the aerial view; making the sound and lyrics become one with another. Devo makes all the right decisions on this record and certainly feel like the combo still in charge of their own sound, instead of pumping out big label’s obligations. After enduring their dud of a record with 1990’s Smooth Noodle Maps, revived vets of Devo and their synthpop will certainly praise Something for Everybody and mark it as a healthy return to their work ethic.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 15 Jun 2010
  • Label: Warner Bros.
  • Producers:  Devo, Greg Kurstin, John Hill, John Hager, Andrew Clark, Santi White, Mark Nishita
  • Track Favs: Fresh, Sumthin’, Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man), Mind Games, Human Rocket

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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