Return of the Spuds

Posted: June 23, 2010 in The Roper Files
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DEVO released their first studio album in twenty years last week with a minimal amount of fanfare.

It’s called SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY and to be honest I haven’t been this excited about a new release from anyone in years. Like all their releases every detail appears to be carefully calculated. The songs were chosen by a focus group who also changed their familiar red “energy domes” to blue.

Billboards featuring the CD art have been placed in New York and LA; they’ve also been doing the talk-show circuit with appearances on Letterman and The Colbert Report this last week. Is it selling? It was sold out at the Target I went to and I got the last copy on the shelf at the local Best Buy; so someone’s buying it.

 Is it worth buyting? If you love Devo I am happy to report it’s probably their best effort since 1982s “Oh No It’s Devo!”. If you hate Devo this probably isn’t the one that’s going to convert you. Don’t think there is a “Whip It”- caliber hit 45 on here that will garner them massive amounts of new fans (although “Fresh” probably comes closest) but who knows? “Whip It” was never my favorite track of theirs but THAT was the tune that took off for them.

Besides “Fresh”, I like “What We Do”,“Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)”, “Human Rocket”, “Later Is Now” and the next to last track “No Place Like Home” is probably my favorite track. “Cameo” is probably the one track that sounds like filler. I’ve listened to the entire disc three time so far and haven’t gotten tired of it yet.

Warner Brothers seems to have forgiven them for the little joke Devo played on them way back in 1982. On the previously mentioned Oh No Its Devo LP there was a track called ”I Desire” whose lyrics were taken from a love letter John Hinckley wrote to Jodie Foster and JH was given songwriting credit. Warner Brothers CEOs were not amused when the accountants informed them that Warners was having to cut royalty checks to a would-be Presidential assassin in accordance to ASCAP regulations.

The four-star hotels Warners booked them into on tour turned into Motel 6s overnight and their last contractual obligation album was released with almost zero promotion. They got booked into over-sized arenas they couldn’t possibly hope to fill and the option on their contract was not renewed, no doubt due to their “low numbers”.

 Devo spent the next two decades doing soundtracks for some truly awful movies ( DOCTOR DETROIT , ITS PAT, HUMAN HIGHWAY ) and various TV shows ( RUGRATS, as well as the immortal PEE WEES PLAYHOUSE, one of TVs finest moments ever ) and later got the last laugh on Warner Brothers by somehow getting booked on the Lalapalooza tours, playing for gigantic crowds the likes of which they never played in front of during the 80s. Despite being shunned by the music industry their popularity never really waned. Their live shows and TV appearances were bootlegged ad nauseum and Devo seemed to be the band that just wouldn’t go away. Their music could be heard as background noise in cartoons and commercials all through the 80s and 90s for clients diverse as Honda, McDonald’s and Disney. I don’t know the inside scoop on how they reunited with Warner Brothers but evidently Warners had second thoughts about letting them go.

It’s somehow reassuring to see Devo having that last laugh…they were right about a lot of things all along…


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