Review of DEVO’s New Album “Something for Everybody”

devo something for everybody

So your favorite band stopped making music 2 decades ago and while occasionally they get together and do a show, those shows are few and far between. You think to yourself, “no way they will ever release a new album.”

That was exactly how I felt about the band, DEVO, and after decades of rumored albums they finally roared back with a vengeance. Not only did they come out with a new album, but in their typically formidable DEVO way, they created a whole new persona for the band. Complete with new corporate identity, hilarious focus group studies, and listener approved band uniforms. They even went and put the fate of their album in the hands of listeners, releasing a song study that helped determine which songs would appear on the aptly named “Something for Everybody”. Although when they announced which songs would be on the album, they seemed very different from the track list of the final album. Perhaps their corporate overlord overrode the study?

The whole thing as a sham or as real, is brilliant. I participated in the study and I was very happy to see that most of the songs I chose made it on the album (the two I wanted that didn’t make it was the previously released “Watch Us Work It” and the buzzing, “Signal Ready”). I am sure that we will see this consumer forsaken material down the road, hopefully as both a release and as part of a tour.

DEVO Something For Everybody

Now the perks of blogging are sometimes hard to define. You can mostly see it in the connections you make with people who blog with you or visit you on a regular basis, but occasionally you get a really big surprise. As a DEVO fan, mine came in the form of a pre-release version of “Something for Everybody” for me to review. Music review is not very common on The Retroist, but I thought I should make an exception for my favorite new wave pioneers. So lets get to the music:

1. Fresh
Energetic and poppy (a lot of the music on this album is poppy) Fresh is a great 1st song. It has a driving drum beat, good mix of vocals, some standalone guitar work toward the end (which maybe references “Be Stiff”) and interesting vocal work throughout that kind of reminds me of their earlier “Modern Life”. After hearing this released as a song on iTunes 2 months ago, I had no doubt that this would be on the album.

2. What We Do
What We Do won me over because it reminds me of the song Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA from Duty Now For the Future, in that different members of the band get to sing a part of the song. Admittedly I really enjoy when I hear Bob Mothersbaugh sing, which is too rare, and I believe this is him on this track singing one of the verses (or an amazing facsimile). When listening to it, I picture in my head how satisfying this will be in concert. The song might resonate well with this tech’d out generation, since it seems to caution against the very tech loop we are all caught inside.

3. Please Baby Please
Oh song 3…what to do with you. When I listened to Please Baby Please on the song study, I rejected it. What a HUGE mistake. While I might enjoy the rest of the album, Please Baby Please has become the odd standout for me. Even while writing this, I am still hearing it in my head. But why this song? It is odd to be sure and it is so unselfconscious and peppy that are first you are not sure to be annoyed or try and sing along, but please do not be annoyed. With this song, it is almost like DEVO is channeling the best part of 1980s throwaway radio pop and building an unstoppable Frankenstein monster out of musical notes. This type of musical mad science is what DEVO does best and this ear virus is still firmly in control of my brain and will be for weeks to come.

4. Don’t Shoot
Don’t Shoot hits me like electro-rock-pop dance music (is that a thing?) The song is fast paced with traditional DEVO cynicism wrapped in a pretty pop shell. I hear themes of alienation and paranoia when I listen to Don’t Shoot. It is sort of like the Nirvana covered “Turnaround” for the new millennium. Because of this Don’t Shoot begs me to wonder who will be covering it in a few years?

5. Mind Games
Some great sound at the start of Mind Games that 8-bit, maybe 16-bit, fans will find satisfying. Besides that fairly “modern” conceit, I feel Mind Games sounds more like mid 1980s DEVO than the other songs on the album. I wonder if DEVO has this in mind and they added the video game style sound as a playful tribute or if I am just reading too much into it?

6. Human Rocket
Human Rocket starts out with this electronic beat and heavy echo that makes you think this is gonna be some sort of quasi-Depeche Mode homage, but then DEVO takes track 6 in another direction altogether. The song quickly turns synth punk rockabilly. I could easily see a band like The Reverend Horton Heat playing this song (minus all the synth). Sadly the guitar is too scant, but you get a nice little 5 second bit of Bob 1 about two-thirds into the song.

7. Sumthin’
If you told me that Sumthin’ was an unreleased song from Freedom of Choice, I would not have thought twice about it. The song is a well mixed and well crafted DEVO tune with just the right dose of cynicism (right out of the box you know this is DEVO) that has clever synth mixed with traditional bass and guitar.

8. Step Up
Be prepared to tap your feet. Listen up y’all…it’s D-E-V-O! How could you not like a DEVO song that begins with a high pitched modified voice squeaking out that line? The song feels kind of rock disco-y and is strangely optimistic. If this wasn’t a new album I would have thought this was from Smooth Noodle Maps.

9. Cameo
Cameo will grow on you — even while the devil sounding voice in the song will continue to freak you out. It has sort of an updated sound, but this is old school DEVO with GREAT guitar work from Bob 1, that will leaving you wanting more. I do not know how to play the guitar, but my favorite guitarists always leave me wanting more. Maybe it is the notes that you don’t play that really make the difference.

10. Later is Now
Well orchestrated, Later is Now, seems like a cleaver ready-made DEVO slogan. That will be used in videos and by DEVOtees for years to come.

11. No Place Like Home
Piano!? What the what?! No Place Like Home is melancholy and at times almost eerie with pretty music and quivering vocals that thematically reminds me of a more mature version of one my favorite songs Beautiful World.

12. March On
What a great way to end an album. March On conjures up stirring imagery of people marching into a future optimistically but with no clue as to what the future holds. I have no idea what the future holds myself, but I am pretty sure whatever it is, it will be twisted and offbeat, if DEVO has anything to do with it.

Okay, as I said, I am a fan of DEVO and I cannot look at Something for Everybody from an outsider’s perspective, but I can tell you this, as a fan, I was very worried that I would be disappointed in the new album. I was not. In fact after 2 decade this album is more than I ever expected.

I attended the recent tour where DEVO performed their earlier albums in their entirety and I was rapt the entire time. Still I kept hoping that at some point they might slip in something new and wondering what that new material would sound like. Now that I have heard what I wanted to hear, I cannot wait for the next tour to support Something for Everybody. The album is strong enough that they could play songs from only it, and I would be more than satisfied.

Something for Everybody has…OMG…something for everybody (see what they did there) and will not disappoint lifelong DEVOtees. While at the same time it could introduce a whole new generation to DEVO. I guess it is true when they say … later is now. Duty Now for the Future!

The UK release date is June 14th (lucky!), while the US release date is June 15th. The album is being released on the Warner Bros. Records label. So what are you waiting for… Pre-Order/Order Your Copy of Something for Everybody at Club DEVO or Amazon

DEVO Floating Dome
Photo Credit: Tom Rudzki

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. I may have to give this one a listen….

  2. @PM: If you have even a passing interest in DEVO, you should like this album.

  3. I too have heard the incredible DEVO album. Best thing they have recorded since Freedom of Choice. Fresh is magnificent. Not one duff track on the platter. Love it.

  4. If the Retroist says it’s good, you know it’s a keeper. I can’t wait to hear the new DEVO album myself. I’ve heard a few tracks, which I really enjoyed, but I want more. Perhaps I’ll head over to the UK to get my fix a day early.

    I’m a little worried for the woman on the album cover. She has no pores. How does her skin breathe? I tried to spot the photographer in the reflection of her lip gloss, but I can’t quite make him out.

    Our boys look good, but I’m not sure about the face-covering caps…kinda reminds me of Dumb Donald from Fat Albert.

    Nice review, Retroist. Perhaps you should cover music more often.

  5. I just listened to Fresh on the Internet. I’m surprised. They still sound like what was good about the 80s, but not “stuck in the 80s” if that makes any sense.

  6. Garsh, I was very pleased in the same way when I heard it. It is like they took their good parts and refined themselves into something even more DEVO without going into parody.

  7. I too have been fortunate to hear at least MOST of the tracks (10 out of the 16 that are going to be on the final album…which yes, I have pre-ordered my copy both on CD, and for digital download so I can have some instant gratification at midnight on Monday/Tuesday) When I participated in the song study, I voted down the 4 songs that pretty much everyone else did… then I heard them in their entirety and for the most part, was blown away, they sounded great… the problems of a 30 second sound clip… IMO so far, I predict this is going to be at the top of my DeVo collection for many many years to come. I’ve even played some of the tracks for my non-Devo friends (people who don’t remember or haven’t heard them), and so far, every one of them has said they wanna buy the new album when it comes out too…. I expect this one to be big. I know some people are going to state “oh Devo sold out their sound to make a buck”… even if that WERE the case (which I do not believe it is… they are after all, shall we say ‘progressive synth’ :)… I wouldn’t care… these guys did a lot in the early days, and if they make a big shiny coin here? they’ve earned it!

    -The Central Scrutinizer

  8. * i should say “10 out of the 16” that are going to be on the ‘special edition’ album, which includes all tracks, that I’ve seen on iTunes and possibly amazon.

  9. No way Mr. Retroman. Cameo is by far the worst of the album and shoulda been dropped hard. No Place Like Home is a close second as it’s just toooooooo sappy. The rest is super great. Yay DEVO!

  10. You people serious? This album blows comparing to early Devo stuff.

    It’s like they made an album just for the sake of making one. No angst, either in lyrics or beats.

    Earlier albums were punchy, and full of interesting twists in songs which reflected some genuine emotions. That ‘Mind Games’ song starts ok, then it’s like ‘what the hell is this?’, some love song for 14 year olds

    It seems that there’s a fan trend in music these days, where people rate how musically skilled is someone to create an album in certain genre whose discussion is aimed at a certain topic. No one cares anymore if there’s anything behind it.

  11. The sound of this album is a nice evolution of the comeback they started on Smooth Noodle Maps (after the disastrous Total Devo). Well produced with a great mix of classic Devo sensibilities and modern production/sound. Lyrically, it’s definitely softer than they were in their heyday, with a lot more songs that are kinda complaining about modern life or trying to be poignant/inspirational, as opposed to their classic “detached observation” or “fringe character studies” modes. There are a few duds (like Cameo or Signal Ready), and some pleasant enough album tracks (like Step Up, Later is Now), but happily there are also a few instant classics (like Fresh, Human Rocket, Watch Us Work It, March On) that immidiateky ascend to the Devo all-time mix tape!

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