Pioneers Who Got Scalped (The Anthology)

Devo didn't really fit into New Wave — or anywhere else. Their whole point was how weird they were. Their ludicrous costumes and ultrastiff delivery were barbed jokes about profound alienation, and they used synthesizers to make their point because those were the most inhuman-sounding instruments around. This catch-all retrospective is weird in a different way: It's half album tracks and half alternate mixes, rarities and tracks from Z-grade movie soundtracks. The first disc roars from start to finish, kicking off with the hysterical-in-every-sense Midwestern rage of their first Booji Boy single, running through early MTV staples like "Through Being Cool" and "Freedom of Choice" that passed for synth pop then and sound like riff rockers now, and peaking with their greatest moment, the heartbroken, viciously sarcastic "Beautiful World." Disc Two tries to salvage the last eighteen years of Devo's career and manages pretty well for a while. As the rest of the pop world caught up to their bitter ironies, though, the Spudboys themselves were increasingly running on fumes. Their mock-robotic stabs at "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Are You Experienced?" were a great joke; it didn't work as well with "Head Like a Hole" — in part because young alien types like Trent Reznor had already grown up knowing the truth about de-evolution.

From The Archives Issue 870: June 7, 2001