Something for Everybody
2010 Warner Brothers Records
The Atari generation has grown up and turned Republican with Blueteeth, iPods and Blackberries wielding from their extremities in a subversive ploy to stay red-hip. As Mark Mothersbaugh and company predicted as far back as 1978, postmodern America has continued to de-volve instead of advance, despite the wondrous gig-world uncorked from the minds of those who were likely bopping to “Whip It” harder than most back the day. People have learned to use their freedom of choice but they now hide anonymously under a veil of lethargy marked by convenience. Sorry, but the warnings were issued beyond the gates of steel from flowerpot-crowned snarkies of the Tron age.
Unfortunately, after 1981’s New Traditionalists, Devo didn’t give anyone much blip-blopped radicalism to chew on. Too bad, considering Devo almost singlehandedly (with Kraftwerk and The Cars) spawned the electro rock revolution years after Duty Now for the Future, Freedom of Choice and New Traditionalists opened the motherboard for future musical growth.
It’s 2010 and the spudboys are back in the digital saddle with the Mothersbaughs and Casales assisted by new drummer Josh Freese. At this point, a figurative question mark lurks overtop Devo’s latest project Something for Everybody. It’s partially because of the group’s inability to evolve in their own right following Oh No! It’s Devo and partially because one had to wonder if Mark Mothersbaugh could step out of the synth sugarcane yummying up his compositions for Rugrats, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and the H.R. Puffinstuff yank for today’s kiddos, Yo Gabba Gabba. Could he punk it up again after scoring ditties about wet diapers?
The question mark turns into an improbable exclamation point because Devo is back. Despite issuing a handful of sporadic albums over the years, Something for Everybody is the resolute successor to New Traditionalists and it makes up a hefty chunk of lost time—30 years worth. It serves as reminder why there’s such thing as Lords of Acid, Gorillaz, Mindless Self-Indulgence and to some latitudes, Skinny Puppy.
Yet there’s no sweltering darkness to Devo’s brave return despite some lyrical fang in the form of “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” “No Place Like Home,” “Please Baby Please” and “Later is Now.” On the contrary, Something for Everybody is a Gen-X homecoming party from a group once ridiculed as nerd chic and later praised as bald-faced rejecters of convention. Is there a better cover tune in this land than Devo’s disassembly of the Stones’ “Satisfaction?”
Granted, this album is more likely to appeal to those who fiddled with Rubik’s Cubes after school and remember Devo appearing in cameo on the short-lived eighties sitcom starring a young Sarah Jessica-Parker, Square Pegs. The hilarious and right-on poke at relationships “Mind Games” from Something for Everybody could have been that series’ opening theme if it had lasted more than half a season.
“Fresh” kicks this album off with a delightful bobbing verve and it’s a declarative vote of self-confidence that Devo can reboot with instant identification. Even happier Mark Mothersbaugh can work the vocal magic he had in Devo’s earlier years, because Something for Everybody feels authentic because of it. Ditto for Jerry Casale when lending his response orations and the two Bobs with their singular, pinpointed guitar strikes and pong-struck synth paddles; catch that gnarly solo on “Human Rocket,” willya?
Don’t be surprised if “What We Do” becomes the creeper hit of the rave underground, Devo is this on. It’s hard not to laugh with joy when Mark Mothersbaugh yelps “Yyyyyowwwww!” and scats about bumps, grinds, gas and, um, cheeseburgers. The lucky ones are going to be the first to go, Mothersbaugh jibes. Bring it on then walk like a perp and be Mark’s perpetrator.
“Sumthin’” usurps the hi-hat crash drive of “Whip It” while “March On” starts off like a distant cousin of “Snowball” from Freedom of Choice then works into a bizarre electronic two-step merge of emo rock and freaking Abba. Fret not; it’s cooler than it sounds. “Step Up” thumps with a dancy robotic resonance sounding well at home in 2010 as 1981, while the machina ersatz aiding the spacedusted metrosexual roast “Cameo” (shaved dick and all, holy anti-Gabba!) is both ridiculous and catchier than an all-star centerfielder.
Whatever you do, don’t discount this record’s potential to hook you. Something for Everybody is no joke and it is crazy-infectious. It’s nostalgic beyond Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and it serves up a reckoning. Something for Everybody is for the fans waiting decades for this spark of tubular fun and it carries its dweebish badge with the pride of Robert Carradine leading a panty raid. You know that’s pep.
Retaliate Rating: 9
Thursday, December 23, 2010