New Traditionalists Import
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Devo put the oblique humor aside for this 1981 album, choosing instead a more direct attack on their social and cultural targets. The result?-the second-biggest hit of their career (a #23 LP) and a big bunch of indelible Devo songs: Through Being Cool; Beautiful World; Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth , and more tunes that straddle the line between punk and new wave.
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But having been touched by the gold finger of hit making, DEVO did their best to fill an album with enthusiastic pogo anthems about their favorite topics, love sex and the willful decline of the human condition. "Jerking Back and Forth" and "Love Without Anger" are typical visions of human relationships ala DEVO. (The stop motion doll video for "L.W.A." is among the band's best.) "Going Under" had them tinkering with their sound a little, and "Working In A Coal Mine" was given the DEVO oldie treatment. Sonically, this is probably the band's best next to what Eno gave their debut. All in all, a solid album.
"Duty Now For The Future" was Devo's apocalyptic warning against a wiggly world taken over by corporate culture; by the time "New Traditionalists" came out, the members of Devo had been fully re-programmed to trumpet the coming of a Brave New World.
Or had they?
Songs like "Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA," "Devo Corporate Anthem," "Clockout" and "Blockhead" were harbingers of a "one-size-fits all" universe that came to fruition with "Freedom of Choice," though the spudboys by that time all chose to march in energy-dome topped-off lockstep.
"New Traditionalists" was Devo's reclaiming of pop culture, fending off punks, puritans, hippies, and hausfraus with rolling pins. With their action vests, they fended off dangerous human elements who threatened the Status Quo with devolved thinking. The world is a much simpler and easy to understand place, when your head is shielded with a vacu-plastic pompadour to ward off the daddy zeroes.
But, there is a premonition of revolt in such songs from "New Traditionalists" as "Beautiful World" (for YOU; IT'S NOT FOR ME), "Through Being Cool" and "Going Under." "Working in a Coal Mine" was Devo's attempt at nostalgia as only they could understand it; disembodied computer-synth hu-boon vocals over steel guitar. It really takes a great swipe at all the MOR so-called "blues" artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.
Devo never sold out, they just constantly repackaged themselves.
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