“It was now or never,” says Devo’s Gerald Casale. “We’re all still alive, and we can all play and sing — probably better than we ever did in the past. These new songs are as Devo as anything Devo has ever done”. You can’t argue with a statement like that. It’s like a parent saying “this child is my child and it’s as much my child as any of the others”. The question here is, and it’s hard being critical to a new parent, especially one who hasn’t conceived a fart in twenty years, “This kid of yours, kid number nine, you know… is it any good?”.
And it’s true — it has been twenty years since the last Devo album, Smooth Noodle Maps, and at least an extra nine to reach their last great album (1983’s Young Traditionalists). The Devo-lution of Something For Everybody has plagued the band for the last decade, with the album seemingly unfinished, or in a state where no member could agree on whether it was worth finishing at all. Focus groups and fan votes all helped when assembling the album, but the results, even with the production assistance of Santi White (aka Santigold) on a few tracks don’t quite match expectation.
It’s Devo, this much is certain. Almost as if the band themselves had to dig through their back catalogue to remind them how. Opening track “Fresh” and “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)” succeed in establishing the Devo credo, with “Fresh” being the closest approximation to what Devo circa 2010 should sound like, (in short — hi-energy electro-pop, intersecting guitars and snappy synths over slogan-delivered vocals). “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)” provides some cringe-worthy cultural commentary — “they’ll hunt you down and tase you bro/for playing with the rules” which may have been topical at the time of writing, but just sounds dated.
Those expecting an direct line back to the ’80s, or at best a “Beautiful World” are ultimately going to walk away disappointed. Almost disappointed. As if to appease the simple-minded, or those who yell out at gigs “play something we know”, we have the familiar hi-hat/drum pattern and tell-tale whip crack on “Sumthin” which bears more than a passing significance to one of Devo’s biggest hits. Nadir is reached and our humour-finding faculties tested on the bewildering “Cameo”, paying out on the forgotten one-hit wonder that gave us “Word Up”. Faith is restored on “Later Is Now”, a successor to the electro-pomp and stomp of “Freedom of Choice” and is the most enjoyable and un-self-consciously-Devo track on the entire album. From the ridiculous to the sublime, you expect nothing less from these pioneering Ohioans.
Something for Everybody is something of a misnomer. A brave misnomer, but by no means a bad misnomer. When you aim your sights at everybody, you’re bound to find favour with someone.