Something you'll know if you're in the know about Devo. The spudboys from Akron, O-hi-o were music's inside joke for their useable shelf life: A musical act, predicated on the premise of de-evolution, which surely and steadily devolves into a corporate computer and synth outfit.
I can't tell you how many times I heard that "Devo sold out!" Well, the joke's on you, because that is what Devo was all about: Selling out! Why do you think they went to great lengths to create the cheesy Rod Rooter and insert him in their videos as a stand-in for the hack producers who were forced upon them?
Devo was all about packaging and marketing. Is it any wonder that twenty years later, Target uses "Beautiful World" to sell consumer America on their idea of a beautiful world, a cold and grinch-like place in which Salvation Army bellringers are sent back to their slums, out of sight of Target's newly upscale clientele?
But, I digress.
Devo started dropping little "Paul Is Dead" style hints about their parodies of corporate music in their second album, "Duty Now for the Future," which indeed begins with the highly official and authoritarian "Devo Corporate Anthem." Spreading their (Mr.) DNA by means of the Smart Patrol, Devo infected America's ears with the seminal fluid of a one-size-fits-all prefabricated world. Flying beneath the radar, it was a Triumph of the Will on their part.
Which brings us at long last to this album, whose signature marketing gimmick was the vacu-plastic Energy Dome (or, red flower pots, to the uninitiated); an Energy Dome hat pin was available to students on a budget, or fair-weather spuds. Again, my punker friends told me "Devo is selling out!" They entirely missed the send-up of tie-in marketing the pop music had foisted on them for generations. Devo's yellow suits (official nomenclature: Anti-Human-Element suits), Duty Now atomic symbol student-T's, plastic pompadours, maxi speak-no-evil-turtlenecks, spudring collars and Chinese-American friendship pins were all Devo's antisceptic answers to the Monkees' lunchbox, Partridge Family shopping bags, the Jackson-5ive cartoons and Beatles coloring books.
"Freedom of Choice" is Devo's hallmark of artistic fame and corporate shame. "Use Your Freedom of Choice," they wail -- whilst narrowing your freedom of choice to five identically uniformed petrochemical rocker nerds. "Whip It!" About the joys of self devo-tion, sadomasochism or (to quote Mark Mothersbaugh, in a later interview) simply "a self-help song?" YOU make the choice!
This album's chock full of eminently danceable songs in 4/4 time: Aside from the aforementioned, "Girl U Want," "Ton O' Luv," "Gates of Steel" and "That's Pep" are the least devolved.
"Planet Earth" is code for Devo's observation that we really don't have freedom of choice, but can be satisfied with the illusion of same. It looks forward to "Beautiful World" on their next vinyl offering.
Devo-ted spuds will make note that the contemporaneous tune "Turnaround" is not on this or any other album version; It was only available as the flip side to the "Whip It" 45 rpm.
But, thanks to corporate music mavens such as Rod Rooter of Big Entertainment, you can't get 45's anymore. Just compact discs. And, government-controlled MP-3s.
Now *that's* what I call Freedom of Choice!