Thursday, July 8, 2010

Soul Search Optimization

(Posted in “Silver Age sci-fi” and “Indie before you were”)

Two years ago, when DEVO were programmed for the oldies circuit, I kept yelling for the Dell ad to no avail; it didn’t show up on their new disk Something for Everybody either but that’s fine; “Watch Us Work It” stands unspoiled as a complete commercial venture (albeit available as an isolated iTune for some time now), whereas the much-cited selection of the new disk’s track-list, mixes and visuals by focus-group is something of a glorious ruse.

DEVO have always known the exact location of the popular jugular so taking the pulse was a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if they’re switched on every year or every twenty, DEVO upgrade themselves to each era’s signature sounds and psychic frequencies. Something for Everybody churns, buzzes, boogies and bleeps with the vital signs of the global karaoke calliope, flashing by like ringtones and feeling just as subliminally, emblematically personal.

Irresistible tic-funk like “What We Do” and “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man)” yanks invisible strings beamed to dance-chips that infected your feet and ass with every CD free of charge; songs like “Human Rocket” (a scary vision of sacred joystick warriors) and “Sumthin’” (a driving jingle portraying Obama, al-Qaeda and the pundits in-between as pitchmen in a life-and-death market-share campaign) open a CNN window amidst the beats and blips so you can multitask.

Those tracks make the sound of cultures fracturing, but meme-fests like the catchphrasey “Step Up” serve as a kind of divine search-optimization presence making it all rhyme like when we find common denominators -- and maybe even common purpose. You know to be worried when acoustic piano shows up in DEVO’s frozen case of keyboard effects, and “No Place Like Home” even gives way from its introductory plunks to the sonic tab of a monotone song-signal promising and disclaiming “a song of truth and beauty for you” -- but it’s a genuinely moving epitaph for a world without humans to grace or befoul the Earth, and focus-group or not, the disk builds in social consciousness and soaring synthony to this penultimate track and the closing wartime anthem of ignored futility, “March On.”

DEVO are pop hyperprocessors who know every wrong note to hit to get noticed and keep you awake, but that means they also know how to strike the most stirring and syncopated chords for the forces of good. Something for Everybody is a pulsing, swirling mash of the tech and bling our grand values and simple pleasures have gotten lost in -- and a schematic to where they can be found.

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