Total Devo

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Total Devo
Studio album by Devo
Released May 1988
Recorded June 1986-October 1987
Genre Synthpop


68:14 (with bonus tracks)
Label Enigma, Restless Records
Producer Devo
Devo chronology
E-Z Listening Disc
Total Devo
Now It Can Be Told: DEVO at the Palace
Singles from Total Devo
  1. "Baby Doll"
    Released: 1988
  2. "Disco Dancer"
    Released: 1988
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 1.5/5 stars [1]
Rolling Stone 1/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau C+ [3]

Total Devo was the seventh studio album by American new wave band Devo, released in 1988. It was the first Devo album that was recorded without drummer Alan Myers, who was replaced by former Sparks drummer David Kendrick. This was the first Devo album to use the then-new Roland S-50 and Roland D-50 synthesizers. This was also the last album to use the Fairlight CMI synth computer, which was mostly used for pre-sequencing the album, as well as for sampling in the choruses of "Some Things Never Change" and "Agitated."

"The Shadow" has lyrics that contain numerous references to literary works. The chorus is partially lifted from T. S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" and it incorporates the catchphrase from the serials following the character The Shadow ("Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?/The shadow knows!"). "Some Things Never Change" (which also quotes The Beatles' "A Day in the Life") is used in Interplay's computer game, Neuromancer, itself an adaptation of the novel of the same name by William Gibson.

Total Devo was the only Devo album to be released on DAT tape in addition to the standard releases on vinyl, cassette, and CD.

Cover design[edit]

The cover photo is based on an early promotional photo by Devo from 1977. However, in taking the cover shot, David Kendrick's chin fell behind Bob Casale's uniform. Rather than retake the photo, a second photo of Kendrick's chin was very obviously pasted on. For the silhouette photo on the back cover, the band members posed naked, in a spoof of Prince's Lovesexy album art.

The caption on the front cover has changed depending on the number of tracks contained on each release. The cover of the original vinyl release included the caption "11 digital cartoons from the de-evolution band," while the original CD release, which included two additional tracks, was captioned "13 digital cartoons from the de-evolution band." A cassette release was captioned "12 digital cartoons...", and the Restless Records re-release is captioned with "16 digital cartoons..."

Promotional music video[edit]

A video was made for the album's second single, "Disco Dancer," using a slightly remixed version of the track by producer Ivan Ivan. According to Devo bassist and co-songwriter Gerald Casale, the video failed to receive airplay after first being aired on MTV's "Smash or Trash?," in which a video was aired and viewers would call in and vote on it. The video was "trashed" and MTV refused to air it after that.[4]


After a four year hiatus, the Total Devo tour saw the band scaling things back considerably. The sets were very basic with no complex visuals and the band wore plain red shirts and pants, with the computer generated image of a smiling and frowning face (as featured on the artwork of the album) on the back of the shirts. These outfits were augmented by energy domes during certain parts of the show.[5] The tour was commemorated on the 1989 album Now It Can Be Told.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald V. Casale unless otherwise indicated.

  1. "Baby Doll" – 3:56
  2. "Disco Dancer" – 4:14
  3. "Some Things Never Change" – 4:12
  4. "Plain Truth" – 3:13
  5. "Happy Guy" – 3:26
  6. "Don't Be Cruel" (Elvis Presley, Otis Blackwell) – 2:10
  7. "The Shadow" – 3:25
  8. "I'd Cry If You Died" – 4:05
  9. "Agitated" – 3:53
  10. "Man Turned Inside Out" (Mark Mothersbaugh) – 4:18
  11. "Sexi Luv" – 3:14 (Not included on the original vinyl album)
  12. "Blow Up" (Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothersbaugh, Bob Casale) – 4:38
  13. "Some Things Never Change" (Cassette Version) - 5:19 (Included on CD version, DAT version, and subsequent CD releases)

CD releases[edit]

  • In 1994, Restless Records reissued the album on CD with the following bonus tracks:
  1. "Baby Doll" (Extended Mix) – 5:42
  2. "Disco Dancer" (12" Version) – 6:30
  3. "Agitated" (Hyperextended Mix) – 5:42



Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1988 Pop Albums 189


  1. ^ Huey, Steve. Total Devo at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  2. ^ Michael Azerrad (1988-08-11). "Total Devo | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  3. ^ "CG: devo". Robert Christgau. 1978-04-17. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  4. ^ Devo (2003). The Complete Truth About De-evolution (DVD). Rhino Home Video. 
  5. ^ DEVO - Satisfaction - live 1988