Like Kraftwerk before them, Devo arrived on the scene as a fully formed, self-contained unit. They had the look, the sound, the style and attitude down cold by the time their Warner Brothers debut Are We Not Men? was released in 1978. They even had a philosophy, which was represented by the name Devo — shorthand for the idea of de-evolution. The theory is that humans have already peaked as a species, and are now regressing, or de-evolving.
Great stuff, and it caught the music world’s attention immediately. The only flaw in the strategy was that the act was a little too perfect. After a few years of groundbreaking music, videos, and costumes (remember the flowerpots?), Devo were seen to be repeating themselves. Warners dropped them, and after floundering on a couple of independent labels, the band called it quits in 1990.
So here we are, 20 years later, and Devo has released one of their finest efforts yet. They are even back on Warner Brothers Records again. Reunion albums are always a hit-or-miss affair. To be honest, it is usually miss. That is not the case with Something For Everybody. This is easily the best they have done since 1982’s Oh No, It’s Devo.
Lead track “Fresh” is classic Devo. You hear elements of their most abandoned moments throughout the song, as well as reminders of fellow Class Of ‘78 alumni such as the Dickies and B-52’s. Any thoughts of this being just a new wave redux record are vanquished on the next track, “What We Do.” The vintage house-music beats sound so 1988, it’s comical. But this is meant as a positive, because someone as cutting-edge as Mark Mothersbaugh knows exactly what he is doing, so the wink to late-eighties Wax Trax! is clearly intentional.
“Don’t Shoot (I’m A Man)” is an instant classic, one of those insanely hook-filled tunes that you just cannot get out of your head. “Mind Games” is another, with the added fun of being filled with antiquated 8-bit videogame sounds.
The only song that gave me pause comes towards the end with “No Place Like Home,” a pretty straightforward ballad with lyrics bemoaning the destruction man has caused on the earth. Devo goes Green, I guess. It certainly fits in with the de-evolution idea, but is a little disconcertingly earnest.
The album winds up with “March On,” which effectively incorporates a message with the classic Devo sound. In this case, it is about a “brave little soldier” whose life has passed him by. The beat and the effects Devo utilize to tell the tale work perfectly, combining to close the record out on a great note.
It is heartwarming to see a group like this make a triumphant return to recording. I think anyone who ever appreciated Devo in their heyday will enjoy Something For Everybody.