Monday, June 21, 2010

Music Review: Something for Everybody

The lead-up to Devo’s first new album since 1990 was a lot more fun than the album, itself. Which isn’t really surprising. It’s rare for any artist to return to early triumphs and bring with them anything more than disappointment for their fans (The Godfather Part III, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the last Indiana Jones movie, etc.)

That being said, I enjoyed Something for Everybody a lot more than I thought I would. I was one of those folks to take part in Devo, Inc.’s “song study,” a focus group formed to help Devo’s new corporate overlords determine the most consumer friendly version of the album. It was a lot of fun, even if the samples of the new songs left me a little underwhelmed. My favorite song on the original roster, What Us Work It, didn’t make the cut for the final CD.

Still, there’s a level of detail and craftsmanship on display on the album that’s impressive, even if some of the songs haven’t really stuck with me. There's an old-school '80s bounce to these tunes that never sounds like a nostalgic pose. Something for Everybody stays true to the band's original premise of social devolution, going so far to proclaim at the start of No Place Like Home that it's a "song of truth and beauty for you" with all the misguided sincerity of a machine.

My favorite track is Please Baby Please, which has a funky New Traditionalists kind of rhythm to it, not to mention the album's most searing guitar tracks. Human Rocket is also pretty cool and, while I dig the idea and execution of Don't Shoot (I'm a Man), I'm a little perplexed by the band's use of something as dated as "Don't Taze Me Bro" for the song's closing refrain.

Maybe my dissatisfaction is just lingering disappointment on my part: Devo has always been my patron saints of musical ethics, the rare example of a band smart enough to know when to quit. Too many bands stick around just long enough to make you resent them, but Devo got out with their legacy intact. I'm happy to see them back (and writing new music again that's NOT Dev 2.0) but worry that it's not going to end well.

That being said,  Something for Everybody is still a fun little diversion, even if it falls a little shy of the precedents set by albums like Freedom of Choice and Q&A. If nothing else, I'm delighted to see Devo getting a little love after all these years.

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