[Review] Devo: Freedom of Choice (1980)

Rock and roll isn’t dead on Devo’s third album, it’s just been assimilated by the Borg.

Kronomyth 3.0: Pothead pixels.

(I), O (O), U… an apology for my first review of Freedom of Choice. The record always sounded mechanical to me. But then it clicked: this was the robot revolution we’d been warned about. It was Buddy Hologram and Roy Orbitron singing about picking up chicks and putting down the human race. Yes, it’s a cold record, but Devo wants you to make the chilling discovery that you and rock & roll are dead. No more hugs and kisses; Devo has distilled the chemical that makes you feel loved and they’re shooting it directly into your veins through a tiny steel tube.

On the opening “Girl U Want,” desire is a malfunction (compare this to “Uncontrollable Urge”). “It’s Not Right” and “Ton O’ Luv” are songs about strong emotions that have been completely stripped of emotion. As I said, pretty deep stuff, and I’m surprised I missed that on the first go ‘round. Then there are the crazed pop songs that channel Devo’s inner monkey: “Freedom of Choice,” “Whip It,” “Mr. B’s Ballroom.” Fun stuff from a band that could write a good guitar hook when they weren’t busy putting one in your mouth. There are a few cold tracks that go nowhere (a harbinger of Oh No! It’s Devo), but a good half of Freedom is classic Devo.

As for the silly flower pots, forget ‘em. Devo was planting the seeds of revolution with their music not their fashion. Freedom of Choice does sound mechanical, but that’s the whole idea. This is revolution without a trace of emotion, where slogans are simply passwords to a preprogrammed response. Not the kind of stuff to whip you into a frenzy on the first listen, but over time it does have a snowball effect.

Original LP Version

A1. Girl U Want (Mark Mothersbaugh/Gerald V. Casale) (2:55)
A2. It’s Not Right (Mark Mothersbaugh) (2:20)
A3. Whip It (Mark Mothersbaugh/Gerald V. Casale) (2:37)
A4. Snowball (Mark Mothersbaugh/Gerald V. Casale) (2:28)
A5. Ton O’ Luv (Gerald V. Casale) (2:29)
A6. Freedom of Choice (Mark Mothersbaugh/Gerald V. Casale) (3:28)
B1. Gates of Steel (Mark Mothersbaugh/Gerald V. Casale/Susan Schmidt/Deborah Smith) (3:26)
B2. Cold War (Robert Mothersbaugh/Gerald V. Casale) (2:30)
B3. Don’t You Know (Mark Mothersbaugh) (2:14)
B4. That’s Pep! (Mark Mothersbaugh) (2:17)
B5. Mr. B’s Ballroom (Mark Mothersbaugh) (2:45)
B6. Planet Earth (Gerald V. Casale) (2:45)

The Players

Bob Casale (guitar, keyboadrs, backing vocals), Gerald V. Casale (vocals, bass guitar, keyboards), Mark Mothersbaugh (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Robert Mothersbaugh (guitar, backing vocals), Alan Myers (drums, guitar on A6). Produced by Devo in association with Robert Margouleff; engineered by Robert Margouleff, Howard Siegal.

The Pictures

Album cover by Artrouble. Devo’s modern apparel by Lorenza. Package concept by Devo, Inc.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on May 16, 1980 in the US (Warner Bros., BSK/M5 3435), the UK (Virgin, V 2162), Canada (Warner Bros., XBS 3435), France, Germany and the Netherlands (Virgin, 202 283), Italy (Virgin, VIL-12155), Japan (Warner Bros., P-10803W) and Mexico (Warner Bros., LWB-5439) with lyrics insert or poster; reached #22 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record) and #47 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Virgin, OVED-39).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in the US (Warner Bros., 3435).
  3. Re-packaged with Oh, No! It’s Devo on 2-for-1 compact disc on May 20, 1993 in the US (Virgin, CDV 2241).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in June 1993 in Europe (Virgin, 786997).

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