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2 July 2012

Devo - 'Duty Now For the Future' (Warner Bros.)

The inexorable progress towards new wave! Devo's second album is pretty hot but it's definitely a change in sound. The really brutal, primitive broken stuff is less prevalent - no 'Too Much Paranoias' here -- and the keyboards are more prominent. Devo seems to have taken on their sci-fi influence more overtly, as these songs suggest robots and space travel more than they seem to be about Devolution. Exceptions, of course - opening cut 'Clockout' and 'Smart Patrol' have that sense of regression, but otherwise this is a 'Wiggly World', with faster and sharper guitar turns, thick digital keyboard assonance and a significantly more intelligent vibe. Don't worry, though - 'The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize' is about V.D. (I think) and 'Pink Pussycat' has the high-school sex-starved nerd imagery that began on the Hardcore-era cuts. 'Day My Baby' contains a 60s (or maybe 50s)-influenced chorus that shows Devo are capable of utter pop brilliance if they want. The opening "Devo Corporate Anthem' (surely performed at the beginning of every Devo cover band concert, or at least the two that I've played in and/or attended) sets the tone - Devo really are a corporation, active to this day in jingle-writing and other such work, and this philosophy seems to merge well with the misanthropic art-fuck of their origins. 'Mr. DNA' has a punk edge, and also contains the beautiful lyric 'He's an altruistic pervert', which is the best kind, right? Every song on here is a winner, pretty much, except for the cover of 'Secret Agent Man', which lacks the irony of 'Satisfaction' - though its still competent enough, I suppose. At the same time, this feels like the beginning of the end - I've never hung around for the 'Girl U Want'/'Whip It' era, though it's still wonderful and amazing that they found chart success. If I were a Devo conspiracy theorist, maybe I would point to this as being the point in which Mark Mothersbaugh asserts himself as proper 'leader' of the band, having swung away from Jerry Casale (where the balance was probably felt perfectly on the first album) - but that's not to say I don't like Mothersbaugh as a musician, artist, and overall renaissance man.

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