Monday, June 28, 2010

Devo - Something For Everybody (2010)

In February, I lamented the passing of local music stores, framed through the story of how I discovered Devo. As it turned out, I had the chance to put my uneasy feelings to the test just a couple of weeks ago. Devo's new album came out on June 15, and I went looking at my remaining options. Unsurprisingly, I came up dry. They didn't even acknowledge that the CD had even come out. I cut my losses and ordered it online that night. And they wonder?

But back to more positive vibes. Yes, Devo is back with Something For Everybody, their first new album in 20 years! Of course, Devo has never really gone away. True, their last album, Smooth Noodle Maps dates all the way back to 1990, and isn't even that well-remembered in the first place. But Devo has soldiered on through soundtracks, compilations, archival releases, live shows, and side projects. Now, Devo has returned to the racks in a music industry that is a shadow of its former self.

I'm a realist. While I think Devo is one of the best bands of the 70s and 80s, it seems pretty obvious that they scored a deal with their old label Warner (the same company that dropped them after Shout in 1984) because the execs see money to be made by appealing to the nostalgia market. How many old-timers have we seen trotting out new projects in the last few years? It smacks a little of a desperate ploy by record companies, as you KNOW a lot of those folks would never have gotten such distribution in a healthier marketplace. And honestly, some of them shouldn't. But older fans have money and will (theoretically) pick up something from an old favorite based on name value alone. Heck, Jimi Hendrix just put out an album in 2010 despite the handicap of being dead for 40 years. At least Jimi is only clinically dead, as opposed to artistically dead.

That was the real question I had going into Something For Everybody. Devo has put out some interesting songs during the interval between their albums. Could they sustain themselves over an entire CD? Or would this be just a novelty that fizzled out? I couldn't deny that their later studio albums, particularly the ones recorded for Enigma, didn't have quite the same "punch" that had brought Devo accolades from those who loved them. What exactly would this new album be like?

My fears were allayed just moments after popping the CD into my car's player. This is Devo at their very best. Is every single track going to stay with you forever? Well, no, probably not. But the vast majority are irresistibly catchy and have plenty of lyrical bite. To me, songs like "Fresh", "What We Do", "Please Baby Please" and "Don't Shoot (I'm A Man)" can take their place among the classic Devo catalog. Plus, that last song mentioned had a genuine laugh out loud moment when "Don't tase me, bro!" became the coda that brought the tune to its conclusion.

Will this album's sales justify returning Devo to the "New Releases" section? Can it, in this day and age? Will it win over new converts to Devo? I don't have the foggiest idea. All I do know is that it is an energetic return to form for the band - probably their best album since at least Oh, No! It's Devo in 1982.

You may learn more of Devo's wisdom at Club Devo.

2 comments:

Travis said...

I've heard a couple of songs off of this album - "Watch Us Work It" and "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)" - and liked them a fair bit (in particular "Watch Us Work It"), and I've been eyeing this on and off on iTunes. I'm glad to hear the rest of the album is on par with classic Devo.

C. Elam said...

It's really entertaining. If you plan to get it on iTunes, I'd suggest the "deluxe" version. It will have all 16 songs that were up for inclusion. "Watch Us Work It" isn't even on the CD!

(I think I read the deluxe version is only on iTunes for the time being.)