Devo‘s new album is an ambrosia salad filled with razor blades, a milkshake made from a hornets’ nest, a pie-in-the-face to all things conventional and artificial. Something for Everybody (Warner Bros.) is the band’s first studio release in 20 years, but this album – full of snappy drum beats, shredding, quirky synthesizer treatments and plucky guitar riffs — is one of the Akron, Ohio-bred band’s best and most consistent efforts since 1982’s Oh No, It’s Devo!.
The familiar lineup of singer Mark Mothersbaugh on synthesizers, brother Bob Mothersbaugh on guitar and synths, Bob Casale on guitar and programming, brother Gerald Casale on bass and synths, plus new drummer Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Guns N’ Roses), has created a worthy companion to the albums in the Devo canon and given their fans cause to rejoice. De-volution has never been more popular or pertinent.
Something for Everybody is a misnomer, and Devo is not for everybody. From the opening tune (“Fresh”) to the final track (“March On”), the clichés of modern life are savaged with pop aplomb — and if no one gets it, then that seems to prove the point.
Subjects such as lost faith, fanaticism, complacency, technology, drugs and war are all lampooned with an edgy sneer. “I won’t even think twice/I really don’t have a choice” the narrator says on “Fresh,” as he searches for that elusive thing he is pursuing. In matters of irony, Devo makes Jerry Seinfeld look like Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
“What We Do” is a hilarious take on conformity. “Feedin’ and breedin’ and pumpin’ gas/Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, do it again,” the chorus wails. “Gamin’, prayin’, believin’, maintainin’, textin’, electin’, rejectin’, infectin’ ” continues the assault on a society that has put its collective brain on the shelf.
“Step Up” is about a person who wants to help himself even though he has to “be firm, figure out what’s what.” He can’t, no matter how hard he tries.
“Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)” encompasses the confusion and paranoia of the everyday man as he slogs through life. Who could imagine that songs like this could be so much fun?
Devo continues to satirize the contradictions of modern life in a manner that makes one shimmy and shake even as the apocalypse beckons. The more things change, the more they stay the same — or get worse. With Something for Everybody, the band has sharpened its rapier wits and skewered society in a manner that would make Aldous Huxley proud.
And you can dance to it, too.
— By Donald Gavron