Total Devo

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Total Devo
Studio album by Devo
Released May 24, 1988 (1988-05-24)
Recorded 1986–1988
Studio Devo studios, Marina del Rey, and Master Control, Burbank, California
Length 41:30
Producer Devo
Devo chronology
E-Z Listening Disc
(1987)E-Z Listening Disc1987
Total Devo
Now It Can Be Told: DEVO at the Palace
(1989)Now It Can Be Told: DEVO at the Palace1989
Singles from Total Devo
  1. "Disco Dancer"
    Released: 1988
  2. "Baby Doll"
    Released: 1988
Alternative cover
2018 re-release cover
2018 re-release cover

Total Devo is the seventh studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in May 1988, their first album on Enigma Records, four years after their previous album, Shout. The album was recorded between 1986 and 1988, with the basic tracks recorded at Devo studios, in Marina del Rey, and the additional tracks at Master Control, in Burbank, California.

Total Devo was the first Devo studio album without drummer Alan Myers, who was replaced by former Sparks drummer David Kendrick. This was the last Devo album to include use of the Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesizer, 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 and paraphrases the catchphrase from the serials following the character The Shadow ("Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?/The shadow knows!").

The song "Some Things Never Change" is partly based on the similarly titled "Some Things Don't Change," which was a reject from their previous album Shout and would later appear on the compilation album Recombo DNA. The song also paraphrases a lyric from the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and appeared in Interplay's computer adventure game, Neuromancer, itself an adaptation of the 1984 novel of the same name by William Gibson.

The song "Baby Doll" was used that same year in the comedy film Tapeheads, with newly recorded Swedish lyrics, and was credited to (and shown in a music video by) a fictitious Swedish band called Cube-Squared.

Total Devo was the only Devo album to be released on DAT in addition to the standard releases on vinyl, cassette and CD. At 41 minutes and thirty seconds long, it is also Devo's longest studio album.

On July 17, 2018, Devo's official Facebook page announced that Futurismo Inc. would be issuing a 30th anniversary two-disc deluxe edition of Total Devo, on both CD and vinyl formats.[1]

Cover design[edit]

The cover photograph 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...". The 2018 Futurismo release simply says "Digital cartoons...".

Promotional music video[edit]

A music 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 co-songwriter and bass guitarist 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.[2]


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 as well as the "World Service" uniforms introduced at the time of release during certain parts of the show.[3] The tour was commemorated on the 1989 album Now It Can Be Told.

On later dates in the tour, two songs from their next album Smooth Noodle Maps were added to the setlist: "Post Post-Modern Man" and "A Change Is Gonna Cum."

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic1.5/5 stars[4]
Rolling Stone1/5 stars[5]
Robert ChristgauC+[6]

Like its predecessor, Total Devo received negative reviews, with many reviewers (including band members) pointing out the band's own "de-evolution" in quality compared to their earlier material. Most reviewers pointed out the "bland, uninnovative" arrangements and songwriting, though "Disco Dancer" and "Some Things Never Change" received some praise. Mark Prindle of Prindle Record Reviews said that, while a stronger effort compared to Shout, "it's just midtempo, middle-of-the-road pop music, fit only for orthodontist's offices and homecoming dances."

Michael Azerrad of Rolling Stone magazine was similarly unfavorable, calling the album "a desperate SOS from main writer Mark Mothersbaugh." and that "If you listen closely, the bass drum on this record sounds suspiciously like a digital sampling of the sound of a dead horse being beaten."[7]

Track listing[edit]

All lead vocals performed by Mark Mothersbaugh, except where noted.

All tracks written by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, except where noted.

No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Baby Doll"  3:56
2."Disco Dancer"  4:14
3."Some Things Never Change"  4:12
4."Plain Truth" Gerald Casale3:13
5."Happy Guy"  3:26
6."Don't Be Cruel"Otis BlackwellG. Casale2:10
7."The Shadow" G. Casale3:25
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" (Not included on the vinyl release of the album)  3:14
12."Blow Up"
13."Some Things Never Change (Cassette Version)" (Included on CD version, DAT version, and subsequent CD releases)  5:19
Total length:41:30
1994 Restless Records CD reissue bonus tracks
14."Baby Doll" (Extended Mix)5:42
15."Disco Dancer" (12" Version)6:30
16."Agitated" (Hyperextended Mix)5:42


Session musicians
  • Steve Lindsay – bass sample on "Disco Dancer"
  • Greta Greta – backing vocals on "Plain Truth"
  • Nan Vernon – backing vocals on "Plain Truth"
Production team

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart Peak
US Billboard 200[8] 189


  1. ^
  2. ^ Devo (2003). The Complete Truth About De-evolution (DVD). Rhino Home Video. 
  3. ^ DEVO - Satisfaction - live 1988
  4. ^ Huey, Steve. Total Devo at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  5. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1988-08-11). "Total Devo | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  6. ^ "CG: devo". Robert Christgau. 1978-04-17. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Total Devo - Devo | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-03-14. 

External links[edit]