Question: Are we not an '80s novelty act dishing out "Whip It" to die-hard fans on an endless reunion tour through Europe, Japan and Australia?
Answer: We are middle-aged Devo!
Something For Everybody, Devo's first studio album in twenty years is sure to darken the pupils of seriously affected de-evolution believers. Although every song seems a commercially infused variation on their big 1980 hit, "Whip It", the album offers enough sonic retardation – wobbling sheets of aluminum, computer sound glitches, spud boy yelping – to satisfy even the casual Devo devotee. A strict adherence to '80s new wave – lots of synth keyboard and mechanic-like percussion – gives the album an impossibly organic sound like we never left the decade.
"Later Is Now" borrows the opening bars of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" and gently steers into a Talk Talk melody that recalls the best of '80s radio. "Siren Ready" offers an adrenalin charged vocal track that sounds like a competitive driver weaving through downtown traffic in Afghanistan. "What We Do" has a guitar grind slab over a dopey, middle-aged cynical view on mortality, ("eenie, meenie, minee, mo"), and "Sumthin'" is an addictive foot-to-the-pedal rocker with shaking walls of wobbling aluminum presenting the state of democracy as a gilded jewel offering "something for everybody".
Often these songs are quickly digested and short on mental afterglow although the catchy rhythms of "Later Is Now" and "Sumthin'" have found a permanent home in my melody maker mind. You won't be chanting the moronic and militant "Jocko Homo" from their first album anytime soon again, or pondering the state of de-evolution as a feasible scientific philosophy as these songs mostly serve as short punchy radio anthems.
Blame the commercial art of it on the tracks being voted for inclusion to the album by fans at the Club Devo internet site where a more radical song like "Signal Ready" didn't make the final cut. Devo remedied the situation by releasing three versions of the album – Standard Version, Song Study Version, and Deluxe Version – with different sequencing and exclusive tracks on each. A vinyl edition is due in July.
Devo have always been best considered an intellectual joke not to be taken too seriously and never to be dismissed as a passing novelty despite the anti-contaminant body suits, energy dome caps, and a week's duty as co-hosts of The Mike Douglas Show in the early '80s, (John Lennon they are not). Their debut album from 1978, the Brian Eno produced Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is a slaughterhouse pop masterpiece and remains one of new wave's finest moments. Since then their albums have been hit or miss and Something For Everybody mostly hits like a tireless energy bunny.