Something for Everybody Review
Chances are, dear reader, you are unaware of Devo. Or perhaps you shall know them as the "funny hat guys". They're an influential band; they pioneered the clash of electronic and rock sounds under the melting pot of pure punk energy. They were a band that, even in their early days garnered quite a lot of attention. David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno all showed interest in producing their debut album, with Eno eventually doing so. They're influence, indeed goes mostly unnoticed and unspoken these days. They only ever had one "major" hit, the classic "Whip It" which dominated the early days of MTV, back when the channel, y'know, played music.
The band even to this day remain a flash in the pan, a once off a sad beauty as it were. The band has had a message which they've carried strongly since the start of their career. The founding members had all witnessed the "Kent State Shootings". It was these horrific events that shocked the founding members of the band into the idea that the human race had reached the peak of the evolutionary path and as such, would start a slow run downhill; they believed the human race was de-evolving. They formed the idea of devolution, taking the name of the band from the idea; they were Devo, music makers from the modern monkey age. Their early recordings were drenched in a raw, perhaps even mournful punk energy, they were outraged at the way the world seemed to be driving and perhaps rightfully so, depending on your views that is. There were touches of an electronic influence and comedic science fiction elements. As serious as their message was, always did they provide a touch of comedy. As the band moved on their style grew cooler. Yes the rock was still there but so was the cold touch of progressive technology. As they moved on they seemed to have accepted the eventual decay of modern man.
Sadly as man seemed to fall, so too did the band, their later records were weak, perhaps as a result of a bad deal of which they'd been caught. It's been twenty years since their last release, but now Devo have released "Something for Everybody." With every year that passes their music and message seems to become more and more relevant, so what better time than now? Devo have returned, they tell us that the time has passed, devolution is real, terribly real and we're all living it in this media mad world. They're here to tell us "we're all Devo."
Devo's later albums seem to suffer from the electronic influence, the music and message perhaps grew too unfocused, things began to become unclear, muddled. Their early albums had a clear focus and message there was a drive and punch behind them. Thankfully this has returned, I can say confidentially that Devo's latest release is one of their strongest, from start to finish each track is strong. The lyrics are as brilliant and cleverly satirical as ever.
Things start off strong, with the first track "Fresh" which was also released as a single. The track starts things off with a bang and clap of thunder, guitars wail the drum slams in the synth work is clean and textured. Presence is demanded from the start. "Fresh" is a wonderful ditty of a man enamoured by a strange scent which he must hunt down and does so with a single minded focus. The song seems to be a joke perhaps on the mindless rock songs that dominate the airwaves today, were singers speak of ambiguous things that anybody could enjoy, here it's brought to the extreme wherein the narrator speaks of a strong scent. "Oh No! It's Devo" perhaps could be seen as a parody of popular music of the time, this is very much the same case with "Something for Everybody". Each or nearly all the songs poke fun at a musical convention that seems to be popular today. The album does set out to appease all.
The next number is a rather funky one "What We Do". Which brings me to one of my few weak points of the album, or at least what I find to be weak, the modern influence at times feel too strong, conscious as it clearly was, it still grates occasionally. The synth work may come off as too clean to those who desire something more akin to "Are We Not Men". The album does not retread ground however, it sounds like a perfect follow up to "Oh No!" and yet still very fresh. "What We Do" acknowledges the routine cyclic nature of modern life which may seem like nothing more than a series of repeated actions. It features some of the lyrical highlights of the album, the "cheeseburger, cheeseburger" lines would bring a smile to any cynical face. The song sounds like classic Devo, pounding guitar followed by space age electronic backing. It sounds simply like Devo with some new tech, again new, yet instantly recognisable. The song even seems to acknowledge this.
The classic vibe continues with "Please Baby Please" which seems like something from "Freedom of Choice" thrown into two thousand and ten. "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)" jumps up then, another highlight. Again the strong lyrics continue, telling the tale of a man who drives his hybrid car down highways fearing the attack of a rooftop sniper. The characters seems simply delusional due to the way of the world fearing even the law enforcement "don't taze me bro". It's a jumpy vibrant song.
"Mind Games" is perhaps a stand out track. Starting out with something that sounds akin to an 8-bit chip tune, which is fittingly retro as the song sounds quite close to early Devo. Thick rhythmic guitar takes the forefront here. The tale is that of the decay of female/male relations. "Human Rocket" is up next and is perhaps the weakest track and the most modern sounding of the bunch. The song is perhaps a jest on entranced suicide bombers and entranced brainless techno types, or hey that could be my dislike for techno surfacing. "Sumthin" and "Step Up" garner little comment, but both are again, just total Devo, good stuff. "Cameo" is a strange song I've not quite yet figured out, it sounds quite good; however, lyrically it just doesn't stand up to the others, quite reminiscent of "Big Mess".
"Later is Now" certainly stands up well. "No Place Like Home" is another standout moment, akin to "Beautiful World" it's perhaps one of the few Devo songs to toss aside the robotic image and embrace a melancholy at the state of the world, "March On" fits wonderfully as a march off into the distance.
The album never falters, there are certainly one or two tracks which may not be as strong as others, but for the greater part this is a fantastic return to form for one of the most tragically ignored artists and artists they are. Now to see what they'll produce in the future.