De-evolution is real! De-evolution is the condition under which a society returns to its roots. When individuals devolve, the basic human instinct kicks in and makes us want to drag our knuckles on the ground, carry a thigh bone of some sun bleached carcass, and appear disgruntled in Geico commercials.
When music devolves, its top performers appear in their underwear flipping the bird at a major league baseball game. (To Lady “MessMess”, I am a Mets fan, I hope every Mets fan that sees you in concert, on the street, with your parents, flips YOU the bird. The Mets will be around long after your 15 minutes of nudity are over!)
It’s time for common sense, it’s time for transparency in the music business, we are long overdue for some good music, and it is most definitely time, once again, for Devo…
It has been promoted in so many media, I don’t need to repeat how many years Devo has spent in the world of TV and Movie music. Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh’s name can be found attached to things as diverse as Nickelodeon’s Rugrats to movie after movie after TV show after TV show, even the 80’s-90’s version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Check your video library, and don’t forget your kid’s stuff. He’ll be listed somewhere as having done some music for it. Mothersbaugh’s credits are, literally, immeasurable.
They had ceased to function as a live performing band, and mutated into a music-for-video production machine, Mutato Musika.
No more hiding behind the video screens. Mothersbaugh and company come out front with a humanoid drummer to replace the computerized machinated drum parts. That humanoid drummer is former Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese.
Fresse had become the defacto drummer after the failed return of David Kendrick. While Kendrick first started with Devo, I was impressed with his ingenuity, but whenever he played “Whip It” there would be a hesitation around the snare drum beat (you know that beat, there is NO room for ANY rest or hesitation) and his inability to recreate the drum beat from their cover of The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” were always glaring omissions during live shows and when they started to release live shows they did with Kendrick on DVD, his limitations were revealed on the digital media…
Josh Freese brings an infusion of vitality, speed and precision befitting a band of Devo’s robotic rhythmic nature.
The rest of Devo is the same as it ever was, Mark Mothersbaugh on lead vocals, keyboards, Gerard Casale, lead vocals, bass, keyboards, Bob Mothersbaugh, guitars, backing vocals, (but I hear some leads, I like Bob Mothersbaugh’s voice, it’s unusual!) Bob Casale, rhythm guitar, programming and backing vocals. With some additional guitar from Van Coppock, Devo are ripe for the picking. Sure, they are more mature than the guys with the red domes on their head. Apparently that age also dictated a shift in spectral paradigm, as the cover of Something For Everybody has an attractive brunette complete with sexy make-up about to swallow a blue-raspberry Jello energy dome. Swinging to the left? But I thought they already were blue left…?!?!?!?
The majority of the packaging is available online at clubdevo.com, that includes lyrics. We’re gonna take a listen to the long awaited, much debated, procrastinated, hyped and inflated NEW album from the Pioneers Who Got Scalped, The Spudboys, those New Traditionalists themselves, Devo!
Something For Everybody starts off with the single “Fresh”. This was supposed to be a title track but the fans voted that down in favor of its current title.
If you have seen any of Devo’s recent publicity appearances on TV (i.e. Regis and Vicky Lee, that goofy Letterman guy, or the Fishin’ Musician…) they more than likely played this track. I won’t comment on their rather phallic-looking new headgear…
At first impression, this sound is so clean you can perform surgery on it. It isn’t sterile, in fact this album reflects a more robust Devo with a healthy penchant for upping the tempo.
The new Devo radiate “new life” and “second wind”.
“Fresh” blasts off with some power hold note chords and once the full instrumentation comes in we are challenged by high voltage electric guitar. The verse hopping back and forth between single time to double time to single time to double times along with the ever-thumping bass synth uniting to keep the arrangement moving and the tempo hopping. Right into the chorus with staccato vocals at the end of the chorus harkening back to the first album, we are immediately put in familiar territory.
When chorus two kicks up with added synths it leads to a guitar solo right off of “Freedom Of Choice”. It’s business as usual to the one note synth end.
A tightly programmed “What We Do” features a galloping rhythm section. Slight changes into the one word-over chorus, the tempo and undulations stay the same, it’s the appearance and disappearance of sounds that makes this song.
Devo have always been masters of understatement.
Jerry Casale’s vocals on this track add to the smoothness of the groove. Very hip, very Village Chic (someone get this man a beret and some bongos…), almost too cool for school.
That same smooth voice contributes to “Please Baby Please” which further vaults us into the land of the cool. Predominantly programmed, the backing track is total Devo synthoswing! Take that happening backing track and put super cool almost 50’s cool vocals and cap it off with dueling guitar parts with a crazed synth ramble thrown in here and there and the result is smooth and clean stuff you can’t help but love.
But don’t get comfortable in that genre, once you hear “Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)” you want to think “Workin’ In A Coal Mine”. Don’t get comfortable with that train of thought as it transmogrifies into a rockin’ testimonial depicting the plight of every citizen in every city in a world where the shooters have taken over.
The wishin’ and hopin’ break alters the song just enough to slip the mood for a second, but we rejoin to the same questions we need to ask.
Coincidentally, and hilariously, “Mind Games” starts off sounding like an Atari game. Cute. But that doesn’t last long. In fact, nothing lasts long on this album, it seems. The disc length is two seconds short of thirty-eight minutes. The longest track is three minutes, fifty-five seconds.
Devo have always been able to keep their times down to insure the material isn’t wasted on our short attention spans.
What was I talking about?
“Mind Games” has plenty of grinding guitar riffs and ground breaking synth bleets until the vocal comes in only to have the instruments break down to a super tight staccato rhythm. The lyrics are about pretty much what you think. The climbing synth break puts a new spin on this rather poppy exercise. Which has a three-note triplet at the end of the measure which really breaks the monotony (not that there is any) but also at the end of the song, blends right into “Human Rocket”.
After a funky sixteen count, Mothersbaugh’s vocals welcome in a speedy intro to the chorus (with an obligatory stop for a synth pitch drop). The bridge welcomes a Morse-code synth line and in a bizarre way, Mothersbaugh ties terrorism to not rewinding rental videos. All right before a gooey-thick fuzz solo!
The after solo chorus builds to another Morse-code bridge verse. Each time the chorus plays, it sounds bigger than the last one until a very NIN-sounding instrument break takes us to the end.
If the album was gonna have to have a follow-up to “Whip It”, it would be “Sumthin’”. Oddly this near perfect replica was produced by Devo. So if Warner’s was looking for the old school, Devo delivered. I could swear the instrument sounds are the same ones used in the original recording, just playing different parts. But “Sumthin’” is different from the lyrics to some of the additional synth sounds. Something that was not replicated was the dueling guitar ending!
Robotic, right on up to the D-E-V-O chant, “Step Up” is a perfect hybrid of new and old Devo. A double note section snaps us out of any possible verse malaise (like you have time to get bored). Between Freese upping the beats per minute like cocaine did for John Entwhistle’s heart (too soon?) and the pristine recording technology showcasing their mastery of the art of programming, these songs are constructed nearly, if not, perfectly and the employed technology gives the vocals every bit of characteristic that they mustered all on top of that perfect, unique rhythm track again and again. “Step Up” is no exception.
This could be a reject from their New Traditionalists period. The doubled vocal to the harmonic split vocal? Classic Mothersbaugh.
Choruses filled with clichés to a devolving drum roll into a restrained verse. The delay on the last words lead to the new parts, even original in execution. That same deveolved drum roll ends with one final vocal cry.
“Cameo” depicts the adventures of a unique person, who has nothing to do with the R&B group of the ‘80’s with the same name.
But instead, this track sounds more like something you would expect from Weird Al Yankovic than anything else (Cameo included). Casale and Mothersbaugh trade off a hysterical lyrical break at one point, Casale doing a hyper extended hyper fast Eaney Meanie Miney Moe followed by an Apache-type yell over tendered by Mothersbaugh. A bit much, but fun nonetheless.
If Warner’s wanted a follow up to Freesom Of Choice’s “Gates Of Steel”, at first, “Later Is Now” is that follow-up. It extols the reality that everything that was put off, left to be solved by others, that time… is now! The anthemic structure of this song, right down to the sequenced ending make you THINK this is the last song on the disc. Not so.
After a devolved intro click the first piano intro only song to my aged recollection (in November I’ll be 168)! “No Place Like Home” yields from that homey piano to a sequenced almost-marimba. It all culminates in a most unique ballad with power chords and string breaks mutating to EQ’d drum breaks and then graduates to an all out power ballad.
TALK about progressive.
Instruments change breaks, breaks change form, choruses change, lyrics, dynamics, you can’t keep up until the final three four note hits.
If you thought “Later Is Now” was anthemic, “March On” came by and stole that description away from it. That’s saying a lot for a song that has a cheap Casio keyboard rhythm track on it. Not one of my favorite tracks on the album, I think “Later Is Now” would have been a more appropriate track to end with. Truth is, there just isn’t much to this song. Some vague, altruistic, uncertain lyrucs frame the musical parade. Triplet breaks in the measures added to end the chaos were nice. But we ARE at the end.
If you liked “Fresh”, this is a good way to get reintroduced to Devo. To order the version as reviewed above, follow this link:
Now here’s the catch with this disc. For you hardcore Devotees, if you check around you can find a copy of this album with DOUBLE BLUE VINYL RECORDS, but also a BONUS CD WITH 12 MORE TRACKS. I had been suspicious of this promotional campaign for this album. I attempted to take place in the focus group for the selection of the tracks to be included in the mass release of Something For Everyone and while I did NOT get to participate (media were asked not to participate) I did get to hear some of the other tracks that were offered up. Several of those included on the commercial release were not of my personal choice and I was flabbergasted as to why they would not include the (already proven to be commercially successful as it was the track for the Dell computer TV ad that featured women in Black and White hair and attire reassembling an engine to the tune of Devo’s) song “Watch Us Work It” on the release.
An import set as described above is the only one to have 24 tracks. There are versions that have 12 (the standard) 15 and 17 tracks (imports) and the two disc plus CD deluxe set of 24. While you can easily get the standard release, this site may have it in stock, you may want to tax them and see if they can get the deluxe 2LP 1 CD edition.
I can’t wait for mine, I may have to revisit this review and update it to include the new tunes!
On an aside note, we have much brewing in the next few blogs, you gotta hang tight, we have the review of the Adrian Belew show in Philly, we will have the new Laurie Anderson album AND a review of a show from the tour. Thanks to the good folks at World Café Live, we were able to procure front row seats to this show so we will have all the slimmy and maybe a chat with Ms. Anderson! Soon we will have one of those underground bands that I am famous for unearthing, The Funky Knights, if you like Funk, Rock and R&B, you might want to catch that one. Speaking of that Belew show, we were able to procure (thanks to the folks at Adrian Belew Presents) the Adrian Belew Power trio DVD and Julie Slick’s CD. Plus we also have a divergent career choice from Steve Morse coming up with his new project Angelfire.
You’ll hear about it all and more, right here on the blog! You thought this summer was already hot!!!
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