Twenty years after I first heard it, this album still makes its way into regular rotation on my stereo. This is a collection of brilliant songs recorded at the peak of Devo's career; compositionally superb, lyrically eloquent, catchy and singable. And it rocks - albeit in a robotic, highly quantized way.
Even setting aside the radio hit ("Whip It," as if you didn't know), the album has so many of my favorite Devo songs: Girl U Want, Freedom of Choice, Gates of Steel, Ton O Luv, the weirdly touching Snowball... there's not a bad song on there.
What makes this album so perfect is that it keeps the weirdness and edginess of their previous albums, but adds in a few shades of pop. Regrettably, this mixture only succeeded for one more album (New Traditionalists) before they started leaning too far to the pop side of the fence. I think by the time the album "Shout" was released they had thrown away their guitars completely, which made me sad.
You can't deny the propulsive melodies and big beat of FREEDOM OF CHOICE, even if the lyrics are nursery-rhyme ridiculous from first cut to last. "Whip It" made Devo a one-hit wonder, and "Gates of Steel," "Girl U Want" and "That's Pep" are fun to hear again. In fact, the whole LP is catchy, but this is where the rot set in. The first two LPs (Q: ARE WE NOT MEN? and DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE) were quirky, weird, and wonderful alt-rock, but Devo abandoned the guitars for synthesizers, and everything since has shared the same robotic pop groove. Here's a band that proved its own theory, devolving ... each album is worse than the previous one.
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