Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Devo – Something For Everybody

I’m going to let you all in on a secret.  For a few months now I have been conducting a social experiment.  This experiment requires asking people the question “Do you like Devo?”, and then recording their answers.  Analyzing the collected data has allowed me to separate the population into two distinct categories.  We’ll call them Categories A and B just to keep things simple.

Category A consists of the people who seem almost offended by my question.  They refuse to respond with a concise answer such as yes, instead going on at length about the “great” and “important” Devo.  Reluctantly, I have been forced to stop a few of these marathon tirades when I ran out of tape in my voice recorder.  These instances only seemed to fuel the proverbial fire however, normally resulting in the interviewees launching into yet another fiery string of statements containing adjectives such as “amazing”, “fantastic”, and “visionary”.  Shockingly, although there is an almost overwhelming amount of passion on display in Category A, it seems that passion does not translate into a large percentage of the overall population.

Quite the opposite, Category B contains the vast majority of people interviewed.  Striving again for simplicity I have lumped similar groups of responders together.  Thus the people who responded to my question with “Who?” along with the people who had little working knowledge of the band, yet knew of their existence, are classified the same way.  Below I have included a sample conversation which effectively simulates my exchange with one of the latter people.

    “Do you like Devo?”

    “Yeah, no.  That song "Whip It" sucks.  Oh, and those hats they wore in the
video were soooo stupid.”

    “I see.”

Admittedly I belong squarely in Category A, but I have tried to keep my personal feelings from affecting the experiment.  My hypothesis is this.  I believe that if a person from Category B actually sat down and listened to Devo’s new album Something for Everybody, I could ask them a second time whether or not they like Devo and their new response would be a resounding yes.  Here is why.  (Alright, that’s enough of the academic nonsense!)

Something for Everybody is a fantastic album that rocks from start to finish.  How do I know?  Easy.  It makes me happy and invigorated every time that I listen to it.  Not good enough?  How about this.  Even though there have been countless imitators, the band still manages to produce a sound that is unmistakably Devo.  Guitars and synthesizers go to war with each other in a battle for supremacy alongside drums that alternate between sounding organic and computerized.  The vocals are playful, sincere, and unique in this age of growlers or ultra-polished, vibrato leaden sound-alikes.  And then there are the songs.  Oh, the songs!

Opening salvo “Fresh” is a fine introduction to the album, but for my money the real show begins with track number two.  “What We Do” serves as Devo’s mission statement, assuring the listener that they know exactly what they are doing with catchy mantra-like lyrics layered over pulsating synthesizers and a driving backbeat.  More standouts quickly arrive with the dual threat of “Mind Games” and “Human Rocket”.  “Mind Games” is so “Girl U Want” catchy it should be quarantined by the Center for Disease Control.   “Human Rocket” begins with a pre-liftoff warm-up, quickly ignites the engines to build speed and energy, breaks through the atmosphere with a guitar solo, and finally deploys the parachutes to bring the listener back to Earth.  Don’t feel a proper album is complete without a heartfelt ballad?  Fear not my friends.  “No Place Like Home” is there for you with it’s fatalistic social commentary evoking a range of emotions similar to the classic “Beautiful World”.  Truthfully, picking a few songs to highlight from the album is tough as each one is memorable and strong.

The bottom line here is that everyone searching for a fun, high quality, engaging album need look no further.  Take it from someone who was through being cool years ago.  You may think you don’t like Devo, but after listening to Something for Everybody you may just find yourself ordering your very own energy dome (those stupid hats).  Did you know that they come in blue now?

-- Penfold

Buy here: Something for Everybody

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