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.
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.
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