Open main menu

Total Devo is the seventh studio album by the American new wave band Devo. Their first album for Enigma Records, it was originally released in May 1988, 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
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 24, 1988 (1988-05-24)
StudioDevo studios, Marina del Rey, and Master Control, Burbank, California
Devo chronology
E-Z Listening Disc
Total Devo
Now It Can Be Told: DEVO at the Palace
Singles from Total Devo
  1. "Disco Dancer"
    Released: 1988
  2. "Baby Doll"
    Released: 1988
Alternative cover

Total Devo was the first Devo studio album released after the departure of drummer Alan Myers, who was replaced by former Sparks and Gleaming Spires 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 and sampling in the choruses of "Some Things Never Change" and "Agitated."

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 30 seconds long, it is also Devo's longest studio album.

Despite initial negative reception of the album, "Disco Dancer" hit #45 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Club Play chart for the week of September 3, 1988.[1]

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.[2] The double CD set comes housed in a digipak[3] while the double LP comes in three vinyl color variations.[4][5][6] Both formats include gatefold sleeves with spot gloss logos and shapes, a fold-out poster and liner notes from band member Gerald Casale.



"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.

"Some Things Never Change" contains a portion of lyrics from an earlier composition entitled "Some Things Don't Change," which was a reject from their previous album, Shout, and later appeared on the compilation album Recombo DNA in 2000. 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 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!").

Cover designEdit

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 videoEdit

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.[7]


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.[8] 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."

Tour setlistEdit

1. "Jocko Homo"
2. "It Doesn't Matter to Me"
3. "Going Under"
4. "Working in the Coal Mine"
5. "Happy Guy"
6. " That's Good"
7. "Jerkin' Back 'N' Forth"
8. "Pity You"
9. "Girl U Want"
10. " Whip It"
11. "Baby Doll"
12. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
13. "Uncontrollable Urge"
14. "Gut Feeling"
15. "Gates of Steel"
16. " Beautiful World"
17. "Somewhere With Devo"

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [9]
Rolling Stone     [10]
Robert ChristgauC+[11]

Like its predecessor, Shout, Total Devo received largely negative reviews, with some critics (including band members) pointing out the band's own "de-evolution" in quality compared to their earlier material.[citation needed] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau awarded the album a C+ grade, noting its "retro-electro sheen".[12] Michael Azerrad of Rolling Stone magazine awarded the album one star out of five, dismissing it as "a desperate SOS from main writer Mark Mothersbaugh," adding 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."[13]

In retrospective reviews, Steve Huey of AllMusic said Total Devo found the band to be "no longer innovative and not incredibly compelling."[14] Similarly, Mark Prindle of Prindle Record Reviews said that, while Total Devo was a stronger effort than its predecessor, the album was "just midtempo, middle-of-the-road pop music, fit only for orthodontist's offices and homecoming dances."[15]

Track listingEdit

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"  3:14
12."Blow Up"
13."Some Things Never Change (Cassette Version)"  5:19
Total length:41:30
  • Track 11 not included on vinyl release of the album.
  • Track 13 included on first CD version, DAT version, and subsequent CD releases.

1994 Restless Records CD reissue bonus tracks

2018 Futurismo Inc. "Deluxe Edition" CD bonus disc[16][17]

Tracks 9-14 previously unreleased.


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 performanceEdit

Weekly chartsEdit

Chart Peak
US Billboard 200[18] 189


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Devo (2003). The Complete Truth About De-evolution (DVD). Rhino Home Video.
  8. ^ DEVO - Satisfaction - live 1988
  9. ^ Huey, Steve. Total Devo at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  10. ^ Azerrad, Michael (1988-08-11). "Total Devo | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  11. ^ "CG: devo". Robert Christgau. 1978-04-17. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Total Devo - Devo | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-03-14.

External linksEdit