Record Review: DEVO – That’s Good

Warner Bros. Records | USP | 12″ | 1983 | PRO-A-1099

DEVO: That’s Good US Promo 12″ [1983]

  1. That’s Good [ext.]
  2. Speed Racer [ext.]
  3. Big Mess

I ran across this record sometime in the early 90s, at a point when DEVO were mothballed. It hosts a pair of extended versions that were never commercially anywhere else as far as I can determine. I remember when the album that this single was promoting was originally released. 1983’s “Oh No! It’s DEVO” was probably the spudboys last stab at a chart hit. It had been three years since “Whip It” had been a freak chart hit in America, and I’ll bet that Warner Brothers were getting a little impatient with the band. To “grease the wheels,” as it were, super producer Roy Thomas Baker was  brought in to oversee the results.

The man known as RTB had helmed many a Queen and Cars chart topper and perhaps it was assumed that he would make sure that the band toed the line. In theory, anyway. DEVO are legendary for their hard-headed natures in that they know exactly what they want to accomplish int he studio and don’t deviate from that vision. No less than Brian Eno, who produced their debut, expressed frustration in a lecture last year at their lack of interest in letting creative accidents happen while admiring their vision in his next breath. I always felt that Baker’s production emphasized bottom and high-end while de-emphasizing the midrange frequencies. As a result, his production of DEVO sounded right at home with the same sonic plastic sheen that the band’s own self-productions from the previous two albums also sported.

“That’s Good” was a single that the band came to blows over MTV with when they released the video. The cable channel had a problem with the animated crinkle cut french fry entering the doughnut hole [as seen on the promotional 2-track picture disc of this same single at right]. They really had a problem with the following shot of the woman with an ecstatic look on her face. There was not a commercial release in America for this song, so the extended version here has not turned up anywhere else yet, to my knowledge. The single has been extended in the typical 1983 fashion with instrumental vamping added to the master to air it out about two minutes longer. Remixing didn’t enter into it.

One of my favorite songs on the album was “Speed Racer” which invoked in title the awful Japanese animated series that I grew up with in Los Angeles on channel 52. Exactly what the title had to do with the song itself is debatable, but the end result was definitely amusing. The extension to the song here is a modest 90 seconds or so compared to the album track.  Looking at the remasters and boxed sets that the band have issued over the years, it’s kind of quaint that the lost 12″ versions here remain forever locked on vinyl like flied embedded in amber. That leaves some DEVO treasures still out in the wilds for the discerning DEVOtee.

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5 Responses to Record Review: DEVO – That’s Good

  1. Echorich says:

    I lost my way with Devo after Freedom of Choice. When Whip It went high up in the charts a little bit of me died. Yeah that sounds a bit over the top, but this happened to me a lot in the early 80’s. As much as I wanted bands I loved to “make it” I always felt, and still do, that topping charts leads to band moving to the bland or finding themselves prisoners of their success with regard to the record company. Freedom of Choice was a brilliant album, full of innuendo, sarcasm and deviance. Just the fact that Whip It is song about self help and the can do ethic and not naughty sado-masochism will always be the inside joke.
    As much as I love the debut, the sophomore Duty Now For The Future was my favorite Devo album in the early years. It was obvious that the songs were written around the time of and stylistically related to the debut album. But DNFTF is a really wonderful synth album and certainly ahead of the curve as far as American bands on that front. I knew even then that I was in the minority as a fan of the album but it was definitely a progression and led to the breakthrough on Freedom of Choice. I wore a Devo universal bar code shirt to high school regularly. It was my daily joy to piss off the Iron Maiden, Who, Stones and Zeppelin fans I went to school with.
    New Traditionalists turned me off. Through Being Cool was all over the radio – well the radio stations I listened to. Beautiful World is the saving grace of that album. By the time I got to Oh No! It’s Devo, I didn’t know that names of the songs and only remember hearing them in video dance bars in Manhattan.
    I give Devo a lot of credit for getting synths out front, but by 1984 their sound was immersed in Fairlights and the sound hadn’t been important or innovative for quite a while.


  2. chas_m says:

    I on the other hand LOVED the band equally from the early, more raw releases (as explored in their Hardcore Devo releases) right up through ONID (actually even the occasional song beyond that until the fabulous 2010 album arrived, such as their cover of RU Experienced and Baby Doll).

    While I didn’t care for the Fairlight-heavy sounds of the later albums as much, I think their subversive message and sense of humour mostly survived at least through ONID. Lots of great tracks on there, not the least of which is “That’s Good” (though I also love “Out of Sync” and “Big Mess,” etc). The giant video-screen background concept for their lives shows was such a good idea that they are still using it 28 years later!

    I thought ONID was a bit of a return to form after a bit of wandering on Nutra Dish Analysts (my preferred alternate title spelling), though NT was right on the money in predicting the future devolution of the US conservative movement.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      chas_m – For me, ONID was the moment that I began to sense that something might be wrong, as it was a snake-eating-its-own-tail moment where nothing seemed to be added to the mix, RTB non withstanding. I think of “New Traditionalists” as the last moment when the band could do no wrong.

      Wrong, of course, is exactly what they did on the hugely missable “Shout” album, which I only obtained a decade ago in its Infinite Zero form. Eh. Apart from turning “Are You Experienced” into an actual song, it’s not much of a DEVO event.


    • Alan says:

      I also LOVE That’s Good and I’m also surprised the extended version hasn’t appeared on CD at some point (Out Of Sync and Big Mess are excellent too).

      I’m a big fan of the synth sound and I personally liked it when Devo went more electronic.

      I seem to be one of the few who loved Shout too.



      • postpunkmonk says:

        Alan – Welcome to the comments! I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of “Shout,” but it beat “Smooth Noodle Maps.” Actually, I am a big fan of “Total DEVO,” so as you can see, it truly takes all kinds!


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