(5 out of 10)
Forgive me if I seem blasé about this new album from the reunited Devo. It appears that the arrival of Something for Everybody has made folks who should know better forget that reunion albums from seminal groups are seldom advisable. Granted, it has been 20 years since Devo’s last album, but by the time the guys got around to that album (1990’s Smooth Noodle Maps), it was pretty clear the inspiration that powered them through the ‘70s and early ‘80s had been more than exhausted. In fact, it could be argued that Devo’s biggest hit – 1980’s “Whip It,” and the accompanying Freedom of Choice album – marked the beginning of the end of the group’s groundbreaking message-mongering art.
But two decades of absence can lead to a lot of nostalgic whitewashing, andSomething for Everybody has been greeted with praise that makes it seem like the album that 1984’s Shout should have been. It isn’t. Although Somethingkicks off with a refreshing bang, as an opening cut, “Fresh” is closer to the straightforward thrill of “Time Out For Fun” than the jittery weirdness of “Uncontrollable Urge.” In fact, the comfort level that the Mothersbaughs and Casales demonstrate on the album is what makes it such an unsatisfying experience. The first half of the album trades in predictable and occasionally epic synth-pop that, though certainly enjoyable, has none of the creepy politi-futurism of Devo’s best work. The second half of the album – with the exception of the spry and engaging “Later Is Now” – is positively dull, with thickly produced, paint-by-numbers Devo-isms like “Sumthin'” and “March On” sounding more like Euro-dance puffery than postmodern gate-smashing. And, really, do we need a piano ballad like “No Place Like Home” cluttering up a Devo album in 2010?
If Something for Everybody wasn’t a Devo album, there’s no doubt that it would be instantly dismissed as a heavy-handed piece of music-by-committee. And, of course, one hopes that’s what the band had in mind here: by creating a weak album that’s bound to be well-received, they crafted some super-meta statement that proves music fans are just as spud-like today as they were 30 years ago. At least, that’s what one hopes.
Standout Tracks: “Fresh,” “Human Rocket”