Devo is a band that has seen the highest highs and the lowest lows — recently, mostly the latter. Much of this attempted comeback album seems to be a desperate SOS from main writer Mark Mothersbaugh. In “Agitated,” he mourns the transience of fame: “I was picked in a random way/To be a singing dancing fool/And im agitated/In this place going less than great.” In “Disco Dancer,” he sings, “In a world thats turned unkind/I see whats going on behind my back.”
Apparently, Devo’s downfall was intertwined with a disastrous romantic life. In “Baby Doll,” Mothersbaugh sings, “Girl of my dreams she dont love me/Always the way it seems to be.” There’s even a pointed cover of “Don’t Be Cruel.” The kicker is that the bitterness so plainly described in the lyrics is camouflaged in inane arrangements. Maybe the members of Devo are mocking the system that built them up and then knocked them down.
No, that’s all wrong. Actually, they’re making the kind of vapid music they used to ridicule in countless songs and interviews. Unless I’m missing some sort of immensely subtle concept, there is not a shred of irony in lines like “When i see you/I want to holler/You make me steamy/Under the collar/You — you know youre my/Sweet hot chihuahua.” De-evolution, indeed.
The record is billed as “11 digital cartoons from the de-evolution band,” which is not too far off the mark. If you listen closely, the bass drum on this record sounds suspiciously like a digital sampling of the sound of a dead horse being beaten.