Freedom of Choice is the third studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in May 1980, on the labels Warner Bros., and Virgin. The album was recorded between October 1979 and early 1980, at the Record Plant, in Hollywood, California. “Freedom of Choice” saw the band moving in more of an overt synthpop direction, even though guitars still played a prominent role. The album was co-produced by Robert Margouleff, notable for his synthesizer work in Tonto’s Expanding Head Bandand with Stevie Wonder. It contained Devo’s biggest hit song, “Whip It.”
According to the band’s commentary on the The Complete Truth About De-Evolution DVD, the lyrics of “Whip It” began as a tongue-in-cheek anthem for then-president Jimmy Carter. The lyrics were also inspired by Norman Vincent Peale‘s 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking and the “can do philosophy” espoused within. Devo co-songwriter and bass guitarist Gerald Casale also told Songfacts that the lyrics were written by him “as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon‘s parodies in his book Gravity’s Rainbow.”
“Mr. B’s Ballroom” is a lyric re-written version of an earlier relationship-focused song called “Luv & Such,” which can be heard on the Rhino Entertainment two-disc rarities collection Recombo DNA. The lyric of “That’s Pep!” is based on an early 20th-century poem by Grace G. Bostwick.
Girl U Want—-The rudimentary yet full synths that begin this release are as familiar as day….because they define the sound of Devo. The guitars are present but not in the forward of the mix…..the vocal is the defining element of Devo. The melody line that runs underneath of the song is just brilliant. The jaunty and mechanical nature of the music defined the times and opened up the band to a whole new audience. This is classic.
It’s Not Right—-Sounding as if cut from the same cloth as the previous track, the swirls and layers of synths are incredible. The silly yet relevant lyrics are in true Devo fashion. There is something for everyone on this track. When Mark actually sings his voice is damn pleasant. I love this release. The mechanical sound somehow seems so warm….remarkable.
Whip It—-Undeniably, the song that put Devo on the map of millions of households, this has never been a favorite track of mine. The video only served to lead the band to further stardom and made them an MTV staple.If anything really saves this song it is the play between the band members….nice to hear every now and again….this is not about S&M…lol
Snowball—-Beginning with staccato synth lines, the song opens up with a nice yet rudimentary synth melody that is contagious as hell. The vocal…pushed to the back of the mix a bit is double layered and sounds larger because of it. The underlying melody shows the true talent of this band….probably one of the best albums they ever released.
Ton O’ Luv—-Bombastic and larger than the previous track, this adds not only sincere lyrics, but combines it in a fun jaunty style. Again, underneath everything is an undeniable melody line that sticks in your brain. The higher tones of the intermittent synth organ breaks up the song a bit…but the bass line is the star here.
Freedom Of Choice—-Pretty appropriate song with everything going on in the United States these days huh? One of the centerpieces of this release, this has a silly musical edge to it…but a rather serious message despite the sometime cartoon lyrics. The message of the song just seems very timely at the moment.
Gates Of Steel—-Perhaps my favorite Devo song ever…..I love the music in the track but the vocal is even better. The live version of this track is almost better than the recorded version…the visuals are outstanding. The tone of the vocal….a bit higher than usual pounds throughout the song. The music has a downward escalation that last the whole track…like you are going deeper and deeper down yet you stay in the same place. This is a truly fantastic song!
Cold War—-This is a return to full of fun mode….with a jaunty synth line that is full of blips and effects. It is as if at times the synth line stops all together and then a few moments later picks right back up like magic. The vocal is deeper and mechanical….it just reminds you of good times back when this band was just emerging on my College campus and everyone was like…..COOL!!!
Don’t You Know—-Noisier and reminding me a bit more of the earlier experimental music the band made…it is the production that keeps everything light and bright. The voice is fun…the underlying tune of the song is very familiar…but I can’t quite place it.
That’s Pep!—-The guitar and escalating beat of the song hit you right away as the song begins. The stripped down feel of the song is nice after all the heavier synth lines in previous songs. This is much more instrument based….the bass line is fantastic. This is a lot of fun.
Mr. B’s Ballroom—-Returning to the synth line but adding in some actual guitar lines that are a bit fuzzy, again remind me of earlier Devo. The voice…once again seems pushed back from the music…making it sound even more mechanical and robotic. This is not a throwaway track…..just has never been a favorite….although the chorus is damn contagious.
Planet Earth—-Ending the release jaunty and fun but with a bit of nice guitar, the lyrical content makes me giggle. This band….so funny…but so serious at the same time. This is a great closer…leaving you with a good taste in your mouth. Fun and full of classic 80’s swirls.
**** out of 5