Saturday, February 05, 2011

[Monday Music] -- DEVO/Something For Everybody

            This is an album that practically no one who knew them thought would happen. After 20 years away from the field, in 2010, the Spuds from Akron released a new album. Something For Everybody is the ninth (non-compilation) studio album from Devo, and after two decades away, it’s almost like they never left us.

            Those looking for the art noise of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO! or Duty Now For the Future will not find it here. The sound is squarely in the New Traditionalist/Oh No! It’s Devo era, with modern, made for digital production values.

            What we get with Something is twelve slices of modern Spud-tunage, with lyrics filtered through the satirical sensibilities of a couple of 50-year old guys. Does it work? Yes… mostly…

            If you liked Devo prior to this, Something For Everybody will almost make you forget Total Devo or Smoothnoodlemaps. While those last two albums had some good bits, they were NOT good overall. As a Devo fan, you will like this album. If you were ambivalent or had no real use for the band before now, then this record will not change your mind. It’s very much a Devo record for Devo fans, and that’s not a bad thing…

            Something For Everybody opens up with “Fresh”, one of the most listenable songs the Spuds have ever done. It’s catchy, danceable, driving, and hummable. It does not, however, really say anything. “Fresh” is one of those paeans of overwrought lusting after the female of the species that Devo has done before. Granted, they do it well, but it’s not a fresh subject for them.

            Next is “What We Do”, another driving track, although with annoyingly fake “yells”. Lyrically, Devo hits more of the mark, neatly pointing out that, if you hadn’t noticed, life is repetitive as hell. We do our things, following our routines until something (usually human) disrupts them. This was another famous area for Devo to tread in, that of social observation, in this case, the routine of life. As relevant as it was when they first brought it up thirty years ago, it becomes coldly so in the age of electronic disconnect.

            More social observation rears its head in both “Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)” and the semi-title track, “Sumthin’”. In the former, the protagonist does his daily routine while remaining acutely paranoid about the dangers of the world, both perceived and real. The latter track opens up with the very familiar drum beat from Whip It, but turns the focus on the “leader of the western world” and how rhetoric sounds great, but that enacting what you say and promise is much easier said than done.

I’m here to fix it so it runs like new,
But the bankers tell me “no can do”.
I’m facin’ problems way beyond control…
I’m talkin’ smooth, but I’m deep in the hole, now…

“Tell me what I say”
Sounds like a line…
Trust me, every word is true…
Just don’t ask me why, I’ve got…

Somethin’ For Everybody… (x4)

            Then, our leader realizes that he’s just a target for everyone’s derision, and a scapegoat for it all, whatever all might be.

Psycho-pundits keep on fannin’ the fire…
Spin the story, then they call ME a liar.
Telling me how I should do my job,
Dropping crumbs for the angry mob.

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, they’ve got…

Somethin’ For Everybody (x4)

            Elsewhere, “Cameo” is one of those songs that just annoys the crap out of you, and the type of song that Devo tries to put one of on every record. I equate it to “Pink Pussycat” or “Speed Racer”. Songs that seem pointless, until you realize that they are reminders not to take the ideas contained within the rest of the record too seriously. Devo is here to make us think about the problems around us in the world, not sonically beat us into depressive submission over them.

            What follows “Cameo” are probably two of the best songs that group have ever recorded. “Later Is Now” is a sweeping, majestic reminder that our social debts are coming to collect, and that day might be closer than you think. Next is the plaintive “No Place Like Home”. With it’s haunting piano melody and synthesized strings, the song builds up to a crescendo of drive while reminding us that the world will be alright when we’re completely gone.

            Like any other Devo record, there is filler. “Step Up” and “March On” are catchy, but mediocre. They might snag your interest initially, but you’ll quickly move on to the meatier stuff on the record.

            So, after twenty years gone, how does new Devo stack up? Actually, it stacks up pretty well. It’s not a half-bad Devo record AND it’s not a half-bad record, period. Better than expected, and will leave most Devo fans waiting for more with baited breath. Whether the Spuds will give it to us…

GopherDave Grade: 7.7

Track Listing

01. Fresh
02. What We Do
03. Please Baby Please
04. Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)
05. Mind Games
06. Human Rocket
07. Sumthin’
08. Step Up
09. Cameo
10. Later Is Now
11. No Place Like Home
12. March On

Lyrics Copyright © 2010 by Recombinant Music, BMI. Used without permission, with intent of infringement.

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