Twenty years since releasing their last album and following the anticipated completion of a fan-involved album production process, the new-wave band Devo has come out with “Something for Everybody”. Having emerged from the shadows of their wildly popular tune “Whip It,” the now nearly sixty-year-old performers (in addition to the considerably younger drummer, Josh Freese of Nine Inch Nails and Guns N’ Roses) are still able to make post-punk, synth-pop tracks with the ability to unconsciously make their listeners smirk and bob their heads to the album’s 12 songs. After originally recording 16 tracks, Devo left it to their fan-base to chose the one’s that now make up “Something for Everybody”.
The most prominent and notable characteristic of this latest album (and perhaps Devo’s music in general) is their striking blends of multi-layered synthesizers, heavy back beats, hand clapping, and experimental electronic frequencies. Each song has a slightly or drastically altered combination of these techniques, contributing to the album’s holistic identity while still allowing for substantial differentiation between tracks. No Place Like Home is the most dynamic and sophisticatedly constructed track on the album; starting with what sounds like a heart monitor then dipping into a refreshing piano section that swells with soft-synth effects into a mystic, echoing combination of keyboards and lyrics that introduce the song with the herald “a song of truth and beauty for you.”
Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo’s lead singer and co-founder, has a quirky, David Byrne-esqe quality to his vocals that contribute to the bands deadpan humor, that when coupled with the electronic, dance-beat background music creates the distinct, and off beat attraction to their brand of social commentary. In Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man), Mothersbaugh sings of the working man/woman’s ambition for more exposure to authenticity while condemning the sense of burden felt as the result of the universal problems they feel helpless to control. Amongst shouts of, “Don’t Shoot! I’m a man!”, the bass-heavy, synthetically dubbed background levels with, but does not detract from the pleading lyrics. This comparability between what seems to be light hearted, dance-tempo instrumentals and the almost monotone delivery of substantial, socially conscious lyrics defines the trend that Devo has embodied as their unique combination between content and musicality.
Aside from the how catchy each song is, the quality that contributes to their danceability has also opened an invitation to the band members to use a song’s background beat as the track’s staple and allow for the degradation of lyrical quality and quantity. The albums starting track, Fresh is an example of what is musically one of the strongest tracks but lyrically weak. However, I would not consider this to be a significant down side to the album because as previously mentioned, there are tracks on this album that sufficiently balance the saturation of synths, beats, and verbal relevance.
By Lacey Smalldon