"Oh, No! It's Devo!" for me represented the apotheosis of the Spudboys from Akron, O-hi-o. I know that for most people. this was the beginning of the end, but for me the proof is in the grooves: I played this one so much (LP vinyl) I had to buy a replacement. Within a year the grooves were turning white from dust and the cheapo "Soundesign" needle on my turntable. And, don't forget, the album cover had a cameo appearance on "Diff'rent Strokes," in the ownership of Willis Drummond, as played by the venerable Todd Bridges.
The reason this album works, is because it works as an album. Devo was best when they put their tunes in the hands of accomplished producers, as with their debut (Brian Eno) and "Freedom of Choice" (Robert Margouleff).
This one was put to the mix by Roy Thomas Baker, who produced so many great albums for The Cars, as well as AC/DC's "Back in Black." While "Oh No" bears zero resemblance to the latter, it is produced much like The Cars' second album, "Candy-O": All the songs, in a constant 4/4 tempo, fit with the previous and the subsequent like a dovetail joint. Let your ears and your mind follow the beat as "Out of Sync," "Explosions," "That's Good," "Patterns," and "Big Mess" weave and flow seamlessly into one another.
It wouldn't mean a thang if these were lackluster tunes, but every single one is SOLID.
While contemplating the lyrics of "What I Must Do," I thought that the line -- as sung by Mark -- "To Bring You Happiness / Could Become a Lifetime Goal / A Smile I Might Bring You / Is More Important Than World Peace," is simple and beautifully expressed. Only years later did I find out that Devo lifted many lines (including that one) from love letters crazed (attempted) assassin John Hinckley sent to actress Jody Foster.
By themselves, the words aren't earth shatteringly profound. But when sung with conviction in Mothersbaugh's warbling tones and when backed up by Devo's instrumentals, they rise to the level of profundity.
Frightening, but the very essence of "Devolution" just the same.