Image by SansPoint via Flickr
Recently, DEVO, along with Warner Brothers, has deigned to give us listeners a chance to help them decide which twelve songs out of sixteen should go on the first new DEVO record in twenty years. This is no small task. Twenty years of anticipation, twenty years of hope, could potentially be shattered by weak material. And yet, one can’t imagine a band giving people a chance to attack sub-par material. As a certified Hardcore DEVOtee, right down to owning three different Energy Domes, I think I’m qualified to give a quick rundown and review of the material, and reveal my votes.
However, it’s not exactly cut-and-dry, either. We’re not getting full songs here. These are simply 30 second song clips, though some of the songs have been performed, demoed, or even given away for release in full, final form, before this study. For those songs I’ve heard the full versions of, I’m basing my review on that final release, or at least the demo/live performance.
Speaking of full versions, we’ve got two full-length song streams for you to listen to!
So, time to Step Up. Let’s Get To It. (Sorry.)
Cameo – This feels like a hardcore-era DEVO song, given 2010 production values. The guitar lick is awesome, instantly memorable. It also sounds like Bob 1 on vocals, though I’ve received word that it’s actually Jerry Casale. I’m all about this one, and I expect this would be a blast to watch in live performance. Whether it’s Jerry on the recording or not, I expect Bob 1 to get a moment in the spotlight for this, and it would be well deserved. [Yes]
Don’t Shoot – This one’s actually made the rounds in a couple iterations, and the newest version is very exciting. The production finally put a pair of balls under the song, and a song like this needs some balls to communicate properly. It’s a great dose of modern paranoia music, and very DEVO. There are more than a few days when I feel like this song’s lyrics. Sadly, the sample cuts off right before a nice little chase-scene like Minimoog solo. This rocks. [Yes]
Fresh – The only full track let loose before the study, aside from an early demo of “Don’t Shoot”. The final version of “Fresh” is just that: Fresh. Spiritually, this is a sequel to that classic DEVO song “Girl U Want“, right down to some of the metaphors. The full version also gives Bob 1 a chance to really let loose on the guitar, with a “Be Stiff” inspired solo. “Fresh” gets a full on stamp of approval, and makes a killer lead-off single. [Yes]
Human Rocket – This sounds not unlike DEVO’s Japanese counterparts, POLYSICS, right down to the vocoded lyrics, mechanical percussion, and simple, repetitive synthesizer lick. Not sure if it’s Original aping Imitator, or Original doing the thing that made them Original, but I like it. It’s an inspiration song, thematically similar, I suppose, to “Through Being Cool”, or “Here to Go,” but edgier than both. I’m struggling to find any song that matches up with it, lyrically, though. Still, it’s a bit on the “deep cut” side. Not bad, but not great either. [Yes, but just barely]
Knock Boots – The first thing that comes to mind is “When We Do It” from Smooth Noodle Maps, DEVO’s previous outing. I’m all about pro-sex songs, though this one has a bit more of a darker edge than the overtly pro-sex “When We Do It.” Where “Do It” was about the joys of sex in itself, “Knock Boots” seems to be about sex as life-affirming in the face of inevitable death. I guess you approach sex differently at age 60 then you do at 40. Good, but not as good as the rest. [No, but just barely]
Later is Now – Awesome. The lyrics have a great message, a call to action and voice of revelation. The music is pretty sharp too, with a nice soaring guitar lick (that is sadly cut off in the sample). I can’t help but think that the song was written in response to finally *doing* a new album after all these years. Later, truly has become “Now”. This could be a great lead-off track to the album, slightly mellow, and melodic enough to lull the inexperienced listener into a false sense of security. Then, *bam*, “Don’t Shoot” clicks on. (Or, maybe “Fresh”.) [Yes]
Let’s Get To It – I had to listen to this one a few times to make it sink in. It’s really manic and wild, a totally infectious earworm. On the first couple listens, however, it left me very cold. Something about the “na-na-na”s and Jerry’s little falsetto bits just had me wincing. Now, I can’t get it the hell out of my head. There’s a lot of energy here, and I’ve always thought DEVO was at their best when they’re balls-to-the-wall rocking out and energetic. This definitely fits, but I don’t know if I can vote for it. [No, but later revised my opinion.]
March On – DEVO goes explicitly anti-war. It’s a bit late, but anti-war songs are always appreciated. The lyrics are a portrait, which is something unusual in DEVO songs—they’ve always tended to lean towards the abstract, or detached view rather than getting in someone’s head. Musically, it seems to be building to something that gets chopped off from the sample. I expect some bombast in the full version, and will be severely disappointed if I don’t get it. [Yes]
Mind Games – Hell yes. This is almost DEVO-by-numbers, and that’s a good thing. The bridge here just makes me swoon, lyric-wise. Jerry’s right, too. Love really is mind games, and this little ditty goes right into the pantheon of great DEVO anti-love songs like “Girl U Want”, “Strange Pursuit”, and “Snowball”. Also, it has cowbell. There’s never enough cowbell. [Yes]
No Place Like Home – Woah. Piano ballad, on a DEVO record? I mean, there was “Pink Jazz Trancers”, but that wasn’t a ballad, was it? Lyrically, it’s reminiscent of “Beautiful World”, though the tone is bit more ambivalent. I’m not sure how I’d feel about having this one on the album, but I am sure of one thing: this would make a killer Booji Boy showcase. [No]
Please Baby Please – Damn can DEVO get funky! Another unrequited love song in the vein of “Girl U Want”, but it works. Some nice lyrical callbacks to “I Need a Chick”, too. The percussion is great, nicely thudding and propelling. Supposedly the focus groups have dug this one, and I have to agree… though I’m not sure *why*. I’ve been singing “Walk like a perp and be my perpetrator” for the last week, though. [Yes]
Signal Ready – Another POLYSICS-esque track…. a sort of POLYSICS meets “Peek-a-Boo”. That siren at the start sells me. I’ve got good feelings about this one, but the chosen segment to sample leaves me wanting. It cuts off, much like “March On” right when you can tell things are about to get really good. If they’d just cut a little off the opening for this sample, and given us more meat, I could be more confident with my vote. Still, the start is promising enough. [Yes]
Step Up – This could have been an outtake from Oh, No! It’s DEVO. Another inspirational song, the lyrics are a bit cheesy, but cheesy in a way that only DEVO could do properly. I also like the nicely prominent guitar riff, and re-use of some of Mark’s tracks from The Life Aquatic for the sequenced synth. It just feels right. [Yes]
Sumthin – If this gets played live, it’s designed to go right after “Whip It” in the set. Same damn drum beat and all. Lyrics that slam George W. Bush won’t be dated for a while, in my book, and so that pleases me. I want more of this one. The only real complaint I have here is, well, just spell the title right. It’s “Something”, not “Sumthin”. Come on, let us not de-evolve our spelling abilities, now. [Yes]
Watch Us Work It – This is the same song that got unleashed on the world in 2007, and the same darn version too. I was really hoping this would get re-recorded, re-remixed, re-anything. Nope, just the same old “Watch Us Work It”. Oh, it’s a darn good song, but I’ve been listening to it for over two years now. I want *new* new DEVO. [No]
What We Do – Oh. My. God. You know how whenever “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee-Gees comes on, it’s almost impossible not to strut to the beat? This song has the exact same problem. It propels you, it makes you move, and move, and move hard. This one actually got a full on stream through Spinner, which actually gives you a better idea about it. All I can say is that I’ve been listening to this one almost constantly as of late. [Yes]