Recording information: 08/2015; 1981-1984.
In the '80s, Devo fans who showed up early for the Freedom of Choice, New Traditionalist, and Oh No! It's Devo tours were treated to some strange pre-show music. Muzak-styled versions of Devo hits were quietly played over the sound system, versions that were so faithful to the Muzak aesthetic that most fans missed them, with the occasional "Is this 'Girl U Want?'' asked amongst the crowd. The recordings were made available through the group's fan club in two volumes of the E-Z Listening Muzak Cassette, then in 1987, the Rykodisc label issued E-Z Listening Disc which combined the cassettes, minus one of the two versions of "Shout." This 2016 reissue from the Futurismo label returns "Shout (Hello Kitty)" to its rightful place, and adds one new track based off the group's 2010 LP, "Human Rocket [Laughing Gas Version]," which is completely in the spirit of the original recordings. Speaking of, favorites like "Whip It," "Girl U Want," and "Jocko Homo" are delivered softly, calmly, and with just enough quirk that fans will recognize it as a Devo idea, especially one from the Mark Mothersbaugh's side of things. So much of the man's later soundtrack work on Rugrats and Pee-Wee Herman projects gets foreshadowed here, but the most oddball moment has to be the rattling, ragtime banjo on "It's a Beautiful World," which breaks character from Muzak for a minute. Otherwise, this is a well-xecuted and quite interesting concept, but being a fervent fan is the first step. EZ Listening Muzak goes as deep as "Pity You" and "Time Out for Fun," so check out Devo 2.0 for an easier conceptual offshoot. ~ David Jeffries