Duty Now for the Future

Duty Now for the Future
Studio album by Devo
Released July 1979 (1979-07)
Recorded September 1978–early 1979
Studio Chateau Recorders, Hollywood, California
Length 38:56
  • Ken Scott
  • Devo (production on "Secret Agent Man")
Devo chronology
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
Duty Now for the Future
Freedom of Choice
Singles from Duty Now For the Future
  1. "The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprize"
    Released: 1979
  2. "Secret Agent Man"
    Released: 1979
Alternative cover
International cover
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic link
Robert ChristgauB−[1]
Rolling Stone(very negative) link
Smash Hits6/10[2]

Duty Now for the Future was the second studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in July 1979, on the labels Warner Bros., and Virgin. Produced by Ken Scott, the album was recorded between September 1978 and early 1979, at Chateau Recorders, in Hollywood, California. The majority of the songs on the album had been performed in Devo's live set as early as 1976.[3]

The "Devo Corporate Anthem" song and video are a nod to the 1975 film Rollerball, in which games are preceded by players and audience standing solemnly while listening to a regional "corporate hymn."[4]

"Secret Agent Man" is a cover (with modified lyrics) of the song by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri and performed by Johnny Rivers in 1965. An early demo version of "Secret Agent Man" had been featured in Devo's award-winning 1976 short film The Truth About De-Evolution.

Production and recording

Duty Now for the Future was produced by Ken Scott. Like Brian Eno, who had produced Devo's debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Scott had also worked with David Bowie, most notably on the records The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and its follow-up, Aladdin Sane. Scott has heaped praised on the band, saying they were "quite professional in the studio" and that he "loved every minute of it."[5]

Scott discussed his role in the recordings and how Devo came to choose him for the album: "I consider my job to put the act across in the best way possible, in the way THEY wish to be perceived. I hate it when I'm part of the final equation. The act was signed for their talent not mine. I just wish the modern A&R people saw things that way. I know they chose me because of the Bowie records I did, but I don't know if it was a direct recommendation from Mr Jones. Devo always wanted to learn. That's why they worked with each producer only once. Took what they needed and then time to move on."[6]

One prominent aspect of Duty Now for the Future is in the manipulated sound of the guitars. According to Scott, to record the solo for "Secret Agent Man," "We overloaded mic amps and fed the signal through headphones which were taped to the mic."[5]

Devo bass guitarist and co-songwriter Gerald Casale corroborated this approach in an interview with BAM Magazine in 1979. "A guitar can only do what a guitar does. It's like only one tiny piece of a synthesizer. On this album, we did much more with the guitars, too. Sometimes you don't know that they're guitars."[7]

However, more recently, Casale has been critical of the sound of the album, particularly in a Reddit chat on June, 25th, 2013. "I love the songs but I loathe Ken Scott's production. He 'de-balled' us." [8]

Album cover artwork

The American 12" album cover was jokingly dominated by the album’s Universal Product Code. The colorful Janet Perr artwork satirized the new requirements for these bar codes. Until that time, album covers were seen as an entire art form unto themselves. Consequently, the new mandates for UPCs splashed across every work of album art were a subject of much protest as an infringement upon artistic integrity and an Orwellian symbol of the impersonal modern age.

The rectangular image of the band originally came perforated and could therefore be removed from the "offending" barcodes surrounding it.

The inner sleeve included the lyrics of all the songs printed in a single block of closely printed text. In addition to other artwork, the sleeve also featured a West Hollywood address from which one could request information and news about the band. In addition, an address was included to allow purchasers to order a copy of the 'Devo-vision" videocassette from Time/Life. This tape was never actually made available from Time/Life and was a few years later issued under the title "The Men Who Make The Music" via Warner Home Video.

Promotional music video

Devo produced one music video for this album. "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize" combined animation with blue screen effects of the band performing. In this video, Devo chiefly wore white shirts and pants and silver 3D glasses. Also of note is the appearance of Alex Mothersbaugh, the daughter of guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh.[9] Alex would later be featured on the back cover of Devo's 1984 album, Shout.

A short clip of the band standing at attention and then saluting was filmed to accompany "Devo Corporate Anthem" and was used in concert performance.[10]


Duty Now for the Future was on the Billboard charts for 10 weeks, peaking at #73. It was received less enthusiastically than their first release, Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!. Dave Marsh, writing in Rolling Stone, condemns it completely, feeling that "inspired amateurism works only when the players aspire to something better." [11] In their review of the album, Smash Hits described it as "unimpressive", but noted that the "change of style definitely grows on you".[2] They went on to say that, although the album was more accessible, it was "lacking the zany magic of old".

The AllMusic review, written more than a decade later, takes a longer view. Reviewer Mark Deming writes that "their second album captures the group in the midst of a significant stylistic shift" while acknowledging that the song "'Triumph of the Will' embraces fascism as a satirical target without bothering to make it sound as if they disapprove." [12] KROQ/LA long-time DJ Jed The Fish, admittedly a huge fan of Devo, sees the album as playing "catch-up," fleshing out many more songs from their immense volume of demo recordings.

Cultural Significance

A seminal new wave synthpop album, Duty Now for the Future was eventually heralded as one of the first pop/rock or AOR releases of a major record label to rely heavily on synthesizers, which went on to be widely used in the subsequent new wave genre of the 1980s. As an offshoot of punk rock, new wave music had consisted primarily of guitar-based songs derived from traditional rock and roll and blues scales and riffs, as represented by Devo's punk contemporaries the Sex Pistols, Ramones and The Clash.

Legendary Punk Rock icon Henry Rollins is among the many musicians that praise the album's innovations. Rollins' short-lived Infinite Zero reissue label (an offshoot of American Recordings) was responsible for the first U.S. CD release of Duty Now for the Future in 1994. The album had been continually overlooked by original label Warner Bros.

Track listing

Side one
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Devo Corporate Anthem"  Mark Mothersbaugh 1:16
2. "Clockout"  Gerald Casale 2:48
3. "Timing X"  M. Mothersbaugh 1:13
4. "Wiggly World"  
5. "Blockhead"  
  • B. Mothersbaugh
  • M. Mothersbaugh
6. "Strange Pursuit"  
  • G. Casale
  • M. Mothersbaugh
7. "S.I.B. (Swelling Itching Brain)"  M. Mothersbaugh 4:27
Side two
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
8. "Triumph of the Will"  
  • M. Mothersbaugh
  • G. Casale
9. "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize"  M. Mothersbaugh 2:42
10. "Pink Pussycat"  
  • M. Mothersbaugh
  • B. Mothersbaugh
11. "Secret Agent Man"  
12. "Smart Patrol"/"Mr. DNA"  
  • G. Casale
  • M. Mothersbaugh
13. "Red Eye"  
  • M. Mothersbaugh
  • G. Casale
Total length:
Additional tracks


Production team



  1. Christgau, Robert. "Devo". Robert Christgau.
  2. 1 2 Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (June 28 – July 11, 1979): 25.
  3. Devo Live Guide - 1973 to 1977
  4. Reynolds, Simon (2010). Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews. Soft Skull Press. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  5. 1 2 Ken Scott (2 July 2007). "Ken Scott - Devo - Duty Now For The Future". Newsgroup: Hoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Steve Hoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  6. Ken Scott (2 July 2007). "Ken Scott - Devo - Duty Now For The Future". Newsgroup: Hoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Steve Hoffman Music Forums: Music Corner Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  7. Bam Magazine. 18 May 1979. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. Gerald Casale (25 June 2013). "I'm Gerald Casale, founding member of DEVO. Ask me anything!". Newsgroup: reddit.com. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  9. Devo (2003). The Complete Truth About De-evolution (DVD). Rhino Home Video.
  10. "Devo Corporate Anthem"
  11. Dave Marsh (1979-09-20). "Duty Now for the Future - Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  12. Mark Deming. "allmusic (((Duty Now for the Future > Overview)))". Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  13. Warner Bros. Records and DEVO Announce the Release of Re-Mastered Versions of "DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE" and "NEW TRADITIONALISTS" From Ohio Art-Rock Pioneers

External links

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