Duty Now for the Future Import
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Keyboards jumped to the fore as Devo continued their rise to pop power with this hit 1979 Warner Bros. album. Their unforgettable take on Secret Agent Man joins inspired originals like The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize; Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA , and the faux-fascist track that kicks off the record, Devo Corporate Anthem !
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It begins with a dramatic synthesizer fanfare, "Devo Corporate Anthem", composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, which sets you up for the cynical and futuristic world of Devo. Submit, and obey!
Then Jerry throws down a groovy tune called "Clockout", which has some nice bass and guitar work, plus some ascending synth lines at the end, which admittedly may hurt your ears if you're sensitive to really high pitched sounds.
"Timing X" is the least necessary track here, but it's a pretty good transitional track. It's a short instrumental which adds new musical elements each time it repeats its simple pentatonic riff.
We're just getting warmed up. "Wiggly World" packs a huge punch, with a catchy blues riff, bouncing laser-synth noises, and some of Devo's manifesto in its lyrics ("They say the fittest shall survive/Yet the unfit may live..."). Definately a classic track for any fan.
"Blockhead" is interesting because it switches back and forth between what is apparently 11/8 time and common 4/4 time. "Strange Pursuit" has a terrific pulse, and probably the most interesting lyrics on this disc, which are unfortunately a bit incomprehensible at first with this particular production of the song.Read more ›
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The first record was really a guitar/punk album, and the later records rely heavily on synths, which in retrospect make all the records which followed Duty Now kind of dated in that cheesy 80's way (i.e. Whip It). But on Duty Now For The Future, the guitars and keyboards mix to form a perfectly synergised, melting plastic kind of sound, which they never bettered. There are amazing songs on this record - Pink Pussycat, Blockhead, Wiggly World, and the epic Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA. This is a truly unique record which still sounds fresh today.
Devo's tableau of de-evolution, punk perviness, and corporate toxemia really click on this record. At no point does this heady subject matter seem forced - the schtick is delivered confidently, artfully and with much humor. This is a truly visionary record that deserves to be rediscovered - one of the few records from that period that can be held up as genius 25 years later.
This is not to say that the guitars and beats aren't there, as evidenced by their cover of "Secret Agent Man," both the remaster studio version and the bonus live version, but the band is, yes, more devolved. Instead of a standard post-punk rock band with an emphasis on synthesizers, they are now, with this album, becoming one of the first synthesizer bands crossing over into critical and commercial success.
For those who care about such things -- and I suspect the audience for this record fits the description -- the sound of this remaster manages to retain the late 70's/early 80's "sound," but with increased dynamic punch and more natural midrange.
This is also the home of one of DEVO's best statement-of-purpose songs, the concert fave "Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA." Declaring themselves to be "suburban robots to monitor reality," DEVO make the claim that they are here to protect both man and mutant, only to discover that Mr. DNA deems them fit to "sacrifice themselves so many others may live!" It also rocks harder than anything else DEVO ever recorded for the first part of their career. After this, the slick success of "Whip It" kind of tamed them...if you ever considered DEVO tamable.
And there's something else. I had always been annoyed by the production of the original album, and wondered why the band and producer Ken Scott chose to leave the album in a flat, murky sounding final mix. This re-issue corrects that in a serious way. While there are no indications that the disc was remixed, everything sounds sharper and more distinct. It's raised my original rating of "Duty Now..." to five stars because frankly, this sounds utterly new and exciting all over again.
If you wonder why the album hasn't been repackaged by reissue titans at Rhino, consider the fact that the company who put this one together is actually a subsidiary of Rhino Records; Collectable recordings. Quite a shame, actually.
My advice is that if you are new to this recording, pick it up because the price isn't that high for it. But if you'd like to have quality experience of a great work, seek out the Infinite Zero copy if you can find it (because it's out of print, of course). Or try purchasing the import version by Virgin records which has this album backed with another Devo classic "New Traditionalists".