Wednesday, May 20, 2020

"Whip It" cracks Devo's Freedom of Choice into the US Top 30

Devo : Whip It

On May 14 1980, Devo released its third album, Freedom of Choice, which featured their biggest hit, at US#14, "Whip It".  The album marks Devo's transformation into a nearly all electronic outfit, with the help of co-producer Robert Margouleff, famous for his synthesizer work in Tonto's Expanding Head Band and with Stevie Wonder. 

The band also introduced a new look featuring its red plastic energy domes, which are apparently making a comeback during the pandemic as is the notion of freedom of choice. As Mark Mothersbaugh recalls:

 "We were influenced both by German Bauhaus movement and geometric fashion, and Aztec temples. We just liked the look. It looked good, and it didn't look like any other bands out there. We weren't interested in wearing groovy hats or groovy clothing. We kind of looked like Lego toys or something by the time we got those on our heads, and that was a positive thing."


Some critics seemed to appreciate the music more than on he sophomore album New Traditionalists Here's Robert Christgau of the Village Voice, who graded the album a B+ :

Hey now, don't blame me--I insulted them every chance I got back when your roommate still thought they might be Important. But now that that's taken care of itself we can all afford to giggle. Robot satire indeed--if they ever teach a rhythm box to get funky, a Mothersbaugh will be there to plug it in.

But others didn't care for the smug joke that Devo had been telling for so many years:

 Rolling Stone's Laura Fissinger said the band was "creepy" and "uncomfortable":

And we’re supposed to take this stuff straight? C’mon! The adenoidal lead vocals sound like they’re being delivered while held at arm’s length, as Devo’s mechanically pitched rhythms click in coldly all around them. When the band heats up or the singer sounds like someone’s actually inhabiting his vocal chords or a thick, loud guitar forces its way to the forefront, there’s a momentary ring of truth. It just doesn’t happen often enough to eradicate the record’s suspicious emptiness. 

Doesn’t everyone feel dumb enough about love without encouragement from a bunch of guys with red flowerpots on their heads?

On May 23, Devo performed two songs on ABC's Fridays, "Gates of Steel" and "Girl U Want", which was the first single from the album.  Revisiting the album and Devo websites have led me to my favorite of the face masks so far,:

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