Devo DevoSomething For Everybody
Twenty years is easier said than done, but that is how long has passed since Devo put out “Smooth Noodle Maps”, an album that didn’t do them justice and that crystallised in the announced break-up of the band that put the city of Akron, Ohio, on the map. Today, this crazy but likeable band has little to prove to us, as at the end of the 70s, they turned the bases of new wave on their ear with their marked surreal sense of humour and a de-volutional alibi that recovers its original meaning in this day and age more than ever. In spite of the wait, there were few expectations resting on Devo’s rebirth. Everything that they had to do is already done. So in this “Something For Everybody”, the intriguing part is finding out whether the band—still signing up for “take the dough and run” tours —has sunk into creative misery, or whether, on the contrary, they would leave us with a handful of hymns to cheer with the Energy Dome firmly on our heads, a Devo souvenir that all of us fans have in the wardrobe as a fancy dress essential.
It’s funny that a song called “Fresh” opens the album, most of all because the parameters of Devo’s musical imagination remain unchanged: Bob Mothersbaugh’s unmistakeable guitar riffs, galloping synthesisers, and the blindness of Mark Mothersbaugh if he takes his glasses off. Produced almost entirely by Greg Kurstin –not forgetting Jon Hill, who is guilty of the oh-so-sticky “Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)” that they presented a year ago onstage at SXSW, “Something For Everybody” displays what the title says: it is probably the most danceable, easy-listening album of their career. For example, “Mind Games”, a cut that takes us back to the “New Traditionalists” and which, borrowing the bass from Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator”, beams us straight back to the 80s with its “gameboy” air.
In the line of “Mongoloid”, we have “What We Do”, but if there is something surprising about this LP, it is its anxiety to herd us into the gym, on “Human Rocket”, which would have hit hard a few years ago in the midst of the nu-rave whirlwind. There’s also an homage to themselves in “Sumthin’” –where the lashes of “Whip It” are obvious and abundant. The main problem with “Something For Everybody” lies in the linear quality of a good number of the songs, and the fact that this endless wait that we have been subjected to is not at all justified when you hear the twelve songs on the LP. There are no changes. What’s more, a few months ago, Devo gave free rein to internauts by allowing them to choose the album’s tracklist, and the most outstanding thing about the referendum was a change in colour that the energy dome has undergone: it is now definitively blue.
In theory, it isn’t necessarily bad that a group decides not to knock themselves out with writing the songs –the sound isn’t surprising– but it is a problem that there is a lack of freshness and hits. We’ll still have to go back to their previous works to sate our appetites, with or without this album. “No Place like Home” doesn’t really sink in, although it takes pleasure in the sarcasm of “Beautiful World”, nor does “Step Up”. Thank God they’ve left “March On” for last, a closing that leaves you with a good taste in your mouth, and which should do very well if some DJ-guru decides to remix it. Having said this, “Something For Everybody” far exceeds “Smooth Noodle Maps”: it is much more fun and pleasant, although it feeds off of its own distinguishing marks. They aren’t what they were, but considering that they can live off of their past accomplishments, the group from Akron is to be thanked for having taken the trouble to put out an album that would have made a lot more sense at least five years ago.
Sergio del Amo