RIYL: Jerking back and forth, whipping it, playing peek-a-boo
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain lived and died in less time than the gap between Devo’s last decent album and the present. (Add a year if you want to go back to their last truly good album.) The band’s last album, Smooth Noodle Maps, is almost old enough to buy its own beer, all of which is a flowery way of saying that it’s been a long, long time since Devo was even close to being on their game.
Or maybe they were just biding their time. After all, there was no point in Devo releasing new music in the ’90s or even the first half of the ’00s, as the musical climate would have been indifferent at best and hostile at worst. Now, on the other hand, is a damned good time to be Devo, on a number of levels. Between the New New Wave movement (most of which, frankly, stinks) and the emergence of former alt.rock chart giants dominating the kids music circuit, Devo, for the first time in decades, has options. And they’re striking while the iron is hot.
Something for Everybody, Devo’s first album in 20 years, is an embarrassment of riches. The songs are insanely catchy – “What We Do” and “Human Rocket” are among the best songs the band’s ever done – and the production deftly blends classic Devo (think Freedom of Choice, New Traditionalists and Oh No! It’s Devo) with modern-day flourishes. The lyrics are still oddball, but tamer; there’s no talk of slapping mammies or altruistic perverts, and that’s just fine. Not everything here works – “Cameo” tries a bit too hard, and “Sumthin’” is too slavish in its attempt to channel “Whip It” – but this is far better than anyone had a right to expect from a band nearly 30 years removed from its commercial peak. Bravo, gents. (Warner Bros. 2010)