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New Traditionalists

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New Traditionalists
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 16, 1981 (1981-09-16)[1]
RecordedDecember 1980 – April 1981
LabelWarner Bros.
Devo chronology
Freedom of Choice
New Traditionalists
Oh, No! It's Devo
Alternative cover
International cover
Singles from New Traditionalists
  1. "Love Without Anger"
    Released: August 26, 1981
  2. "Through Being Cool"
    Released: September 18, 1981
  3. "Beautiful World"
    Released: October 14, 1981

New Traditionalists is the fourth studio album by the American new wave band Devo, released in 1981 by Warner Bros. Records. The album was recorded over a period of four months between December 1980 and April 1981 at the Power Station in Manhattan, New York City. It features the minor hits "Through Being Cool" and "Beautiful World".


Devo devised the album's title while touring their Freedom of Choice album in Japan. The group had met two businessmen in a sushi bar who were wearing pins that read "New Traditionalists". Mark Mothersbaugh recalled that the band were inspired by the phrase, as they wanted to create new traditions themselves.[2] The phrase belonged to a right-wing political group in Japan, who were using it as their name, and Devo found the pins in stores and purchased them as a joke. When the album was being written, the group recalled the name and decided that it would work for their songs. In the words of Gerald Casale, "We became the New Traditionalists but turned it on its ear. We appropriated the idea of that, meaning we were going to provide you with new traditions to forget about the old ones".[3]


Following the band's success with "Whip It" and its parent album, Freedom of Choice, Devo opted to craft a darker and less accessible album that explored their concept of "de-evolution" even further.[4] New Traditionalists contains songs in a minimalist synth-pop style, with an emphasis on synthesizer riffs and dance rhythms, as well as an increased focus on electronic percussion.[5][6] Lyrically, the album contains more straightforward sentiments than the band's previous albums, often eschewing sarcasm and irony for overt anger.[6] Rolling Stone Australia notes that the song "Beautiful World" "waits a while to reveal its hidden darkness and cynicism", echoed in its music video, which starts out "happy" and "optimistic".[7] In "Enough Said", Devo make one of their first overtly political statements, advocating throwing leaders into a ring and letting them "fight like hell to see who's king".[8] The lyrics were written by Mark and Bob's father Robert Mothersbaugh, Sr., who also played their character General Boy.[9]

According to music historian Andy Zax, New Traditionalists found Devo "more than slightly ambivalent about their newfound popularity", exemplified in opening track "Through Being Cool", with its criticism of trendy "ninnies" and "twits".[1] Zax also observed that songs such as "Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth" and "Love Without Anger" "dissect dysfunctional relationships from the inside, rather than from afar".[1]

In a 2020 interview, Gerald Casale stated that he felt New Traditionalists "was the last [Devo] record where there was some semblance of balance between primal energy and just electronics for their own sake."[10]


New Traditionalists was the band's first fully self-produced album.[1] It was recorded on a then-new brand of 2-inch tape from 3M. Unfortunately, when Devo began recording the vocals for the album, the edges of the tape had begun to disintegrate. After asking Warner Bros. if they could start over and re-record the album from scratch and being denied, Devo transferred all the work they had done to digital reel-to-reel tape and finished the album via digital recording at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, California.[3]

"The Super Thing" was later sampled in Devo's 2007 single "Watch Us Work It",[11] which was remixed by Teddybears.[12]


The front and back cover were photographed by Moshe Brakha and feature artwork by Richard Seireeni, based on a concept by the band.[13] The band's clothing, also worn during live performances, was influenced by Japanese fashion,[13] while the rubber pompadours, created by Brent Scrivner, were based on the hairstyle of John F. Kennedy but were frequently mistaken for that of Ronald Reagan.[14] Casale's longheld interest in the space program led to the band using a cartoon image of an astronaut's head from a paper Halloween mask in the artwork, which was later reused for the limited edition "Beautiful World" picture disc.[15]

The band wore blue V-neck T-shirts with the New Traditionalists astronaut on the black sleeves. This shirt can be seen on the US, Australian and New Zealand versions of the album cover. On the European cover, Devo is seen wearing "Sleeveless Maxi-Turtleneck Sweaters". The T-shirts, turtlenecks and plastic versions of the pompadours were all available through Devo's fan club catalog.[citation needed]

The first pressings of the LP included a 33 inch by 22 inch poster,[16] designed by the Church of the SubGenius.[17] It contains a drawing of the band on stage, with some iconic American archetypes (a Native American, a Pilgrim, a cowboy, a hippie, a punk rocker and a modern housewife) in the audience.[citation needed]


Music videos[edit]

Devo made three music videos for the album. "Through Being Cool" had Devo taking a limited role, focusing on a team of kids clad in Devo "Action Vests" attacking arrogant and ignorant people with "spudguns".

In "Love Without Anger", Devo acts as a Greek chorus to a bizarre love story between two humanoid chickens. It also features a stop motion video by Rev. Ivan Stang (Church of the SubGenius) of Barbie and Ken fighting each other and removing each other's body parts. A portrait of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs is on the wall above the couch.

The music video for the song "Beautiful World" features the character Booji Boy prominently, as he initially watches scenes of beautiful women, futuristic cars and other happy elements, which by the end of the song have been replaced by images of race riots, the Ku Klux Klan, World War I, famine in Africa, car crashes and nuclear explosions, which puts a much darker slant on the song's lyrics. The video was slightly censored for broadcasts on the ABC-TV music show Countdown. A small segment of archive footage depicting a woman on fire was considered unsuitable for the show's early evening time slot—despite the fact that the flames were animated, not real—and this censored version is still screened occasionally on the ABC's music video series rage, including a mid-1990s episode hosted by Devo.

"Working in the Coal Mine"[edit]

New Traditionalists was originally packaged with a bonus 7-inch single of the band's cover of songwriter Allen Toussaint's "Working in the Coal Mine".[4]

According to a 2008 interview with lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh, Devo had originally intended to include the song on the album but were thwarted by Warner Bros. The band was then approached by the makers of the animated film Heavy Metal and asked if they had a song to donate for a sequence in the film involving a house band in outer space. Devo offered them the unused "Working in the Coal Mine", and as a fluke the song ended up being the only charting song on the soundtrack album. Since the song was now a "hit", Warner Bros. pressed up thousands of two-sided 7-inch singles and included them with initial copies of the LP.[18]

Most CD and cassette pressings of New Traditionalists include "Working in the Coal Mine" as a bonus track.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Robert ChristgauB[20]
Rolling Stone[5]


David Fricke of Rolling Stone stated, "New Traditionalists has a few obvious Top Forty finger poppers – 'Through Being Cool' (the latest Devo fight song), 'Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth' and 'Enough Said' (this year's 'Whip It') – and the slick production makes it all go down easy. But the group's increasing overuse of simplistic, droning synthesizer riffs and treadmill dance rhythms is neither trendy nor traditional. It's predictable."[5] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called the album "Filler plus three major songs" ("Through Being Cool", "Love Without Anger" and "Beautiful World") "each of which gets an explanatory video in concert, which with these art-school ciphers is a comfort", although he concluded that these "would not satisfy the ninnies and twits who think war toys and visual aids are evil by definition."[20] Scott Isler of Trouser Press stated that while New Traditionalists had "a couple of attention-getting songs ('Love Without Anger,' 'Going Under,' the extraordinarily attractive 'Beautiful World')" as well as the bonus "Working in the Coal Mine" single, the majority of the album was "clinical-sounding laissez-faire techno-dance stuff, less-than-compelling lyrics set to a metronomic 4/4 beat."[21][22]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Steve Huey opined that New Traditionalists found Devo "aghast at being pegged as a novelty act by some of their own satirical targets", and that the band "largely abandons its sense of absurdity" on the album, theorizing that they'd decided that "America's comprehension of irony was sorely lacking". While he felt the album contained "some of Devo's angriest, most embittered songs", he felt many were "unmemorable" and sported "melodic deficiencies", although he ultimately concluded that "at least half of the album is worthwhile."[6]


New Traditionalists was slightly less successful than the Freedom of Choice album, peaking at No. 23 on the Billboard charts, whereas Freedom of Choice had peaked at No. 22. The non-album single "Working in the Coal Mine" peaked at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100.[23]

The album and its singles continued Devo's success in Australia, with "Beautiful World" peaking at No. 14 and "Working in the Coal Mine" at No. 20.[citation needed]


The tour set was designed by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, and was manufactured by John Zabrucky.[24] Modified treadmills were housed inside a temple stage set, allowing for uniform choreography by the band members, and still photos were projected behind the band.[25] The set was plexiglass, allowing it to be illuminated by different colored lights, and the front, made of white plastic, was removable, revealing a framework.[24]

On stage, Devo wore what were called "Utopian Boy Scout Uniforms", consisting of a gray button down shirt, gray slacks and black patent leather shoes. Professional footage was shot during the tour, but after the film crew's lighting generator clashed with the stage crew's and blew both sets of lights, an insurance claim stipulated that the footage had to be destroyed.[3] However, Devo appeared on the TV show Fridays in 1981 and performed five songs with a full stage set, and a few short, semi-pro-shot clips from the tour have surfaced over the Internet.[26][27][28]

In 2012, Devo commemorated the New Traditionalists tour by releasing Live 1981 Seattle as a double LP for Record Store Day. The album was culled from a cassette recording from November 1981. According to Gerald Casale, "DEVO archivist Michael Pilmer (aka Devo-Obsesso), found the tape in a shoebox full of cassettes in [keyboardist and guitarist] Bob 2's home fifteen years ago, which he immediately transferred to DAT".[29] In 2013, it was issued on CD with two bonus tracks[30] from a performance at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts on November 5, 1981.[31]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, except where noted

Side one
1."Through Being Cool"3:14
2."Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth" 3:05
3."Pity You"M. Mothersbaugh2:47
4."Soft Things" 3:27
5."Going Under" 3:26
Side two
1."Race of Doom" 3:44
2."Love Without Anger" 2:37
3."The Super Thing" 4:21
4."Beautiful World" 3:35
5."Enough Said"
Total length:33:28

1993 Virgin Duty Now for the Future/New Traditionalists CD bonus track:

14."Working in the Coal Mine"Allen Toussaint2:53

1997 Infinite Zero Archive/American Recordings CD bonus tracks:

11."Working in the Coal Mine"Toussaint2:53
12."Mecha-Mania Boy" 2:48
13."Nu-Tra Speaks (New Traditionalist Man)"G. Casale1:39

2010 Warner Bros. CD bonus tracks:

11."Nu-Tra Speaks (New Traditionalist Man)"G. Casale1:40
12."One Dumb Thing" 2:46
13."Modern Life"M. Mothersbaugh3:05
14."Faster and Faster"M. Mothersbaugh2:50
15."Psychology of Desire" (Demo) 4:23
16."It's a Beautiful World" (E-Z Listening Version) 3:12


Credits adapted from Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology CD liner notes:[1]


Credits adapted from the original album's liner notes:[32]


  • Devo – producer, design concept
  • Phil Brown – mastering
  • Larry Alexander – engineer
  • Karat Faye – assistant engineer
  • Brent Scrivner – New Traditionalist hairdos
  • John Zabrucky – New Traditionalist astronaut
  • Moshe Brakha – cover photography
  • Richard Seireeni – art direction
  • Fran Fresquez (Narf Graphics) – Club Devo catalog


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart Peak
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart[33] 3
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[34] 32
New Zealand Albums Chart[35] 6
UK Albums Chart[36][37] 50
US Billboard 200[23] 23
US Record World 24

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1982) Position
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[38] 47


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia 75,000+[39]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[40] Gold 7,500^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


Devo (2018a). DEVO: The Brand. London: Rocket 88 Books Publishing. ISBN 9781910978016.

Devo (2018b). DEVO: Unmasked. London: Rocket 88 Books Publishing. ISBN 9781910978016.


  1. ^ a b c d e Zax, Andy (2000). Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology (CD liner notes). Los Angeles: Rhino. R2 75967.
  2. ^ "Devo on Bowie, Leaving Miles Davis Unimpressed, and Working with Soundgarden, Foo Fighters". American Songwriter. October 26, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Lake, Dave (April 17, 2012). "Tell Me About That Album: Devo's Live in Seattle 1981". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved September 16, 2022.
  4. ^ a b "August 1981: Devo Release NEW TRADITIONALISTS". Rhino. August 26, 2021. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Fricke, David (November 26, 1981). "Rolling Stone: Devo: New Traditionalists". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on August 27, 2006. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Devo - New Traditionalists". AllMusic. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
  7. ^ "The 100 Greatest Music Videos - Devo, "Beautiful World"". Rolling Stone Australia. August 3, 2021. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  8. ^ Adams, Gregory (August 14, 2012). "Devo to Deliver Mitt Romney-Critiquing Single". Exclaim!. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
  9. ^ Devo 2018b, p. 152.
  10. ^ Jerry Casale (October 8, 2020). No. 198:Jerry Casale/Devo- Part 2 (YouTube video). Dean Delray. Event occurs at 37m 20s. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
  11. ^ Freedman, Pete (March 12, 2009). "Devo". Dallas Observer. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  12. ^ Breihan, Tom (February 8, 2010). "Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh Talks Olympics, New Look, New Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  13. ^ a b Devo 2018a, p. 97.
  14. ^ Devo 2018a, p. 104.
  15. ^ Devo 2018a, p. 113.
  16. ^ Devo 2018a, p. 111.
  17. ^ "DEVO - New Traditionalists (LP Insert)". Chisholm Larsson Gallery. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
  18. ^ Valania, Jonathan (June 27, 2008). "DEVOLUTION FOR DUMMIES: Q&A With Mark Mothersbaugh". Phawker. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  19. ^ Allmusic review
  20. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: devo". Robert Christgau. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  21. ^ Isler, Scott (1983). Ira A. Robbins (ed.). The Trouser Press Guide to New Wave Records. Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 79. ISBN 978-0684179445.
  22. ^ Isler, Scott; Robbins, Ira; Neugebauer, Delvin. "Devo - Trouser Press". Trouser Press. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
  23. ^ a b "Devo". Billboard. Retrieved November 5, 2022.
  24. ^ a b Devo 2018b, p. 118.
  25. ^ Devo 2018b, p. 121.
  26. ^ Devo- Live In Boulder, Colorado 1981 (Footage!), archived from the original on December 13, 2021, retrieved May 26, 2021
  27. ^ Devo - Opening Theme/Going Under (live, 1981, Boulder, CO/Seattle, WA), archived from the original on December 13, 2021, retrieved May 26, 2021
  28. ^ DEVO: New Traditionalists tour footage (unknown location, 1981-1982), archived from the original on December 13, 2021, retrieved May 26, 2021
  29. ^ "DEVO "Live 1981 Seattle" 2-LP Set: Record Store Day". Club Devo. Archived from the original on April 18, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  30. ^ "Devo to release 'New Traditionalists: Live 1981 Seattle' on CD with 2 bonus tracks". Slicing Up Eyeballs. April 1, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2022.
  31. ^ Devo (2013). Live 1981 Seattle (CD liner notes). Booji Boy Records. CD-BOOJI-001.
  32. ^ Devo (1981). New Traditionalists (LP liner notes). Warner Bros. Records. BSK 3595.
  33. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 88. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  34. ^ "Search – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  35. ^ "charts.nz – Discography Devo". © 2006–2010 Hung Medien / hitparade.ch. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  36. ^ Warwick, 2004. p.320
  37. ^ "Official Charts > Devo". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  38. ^ "Top Selling Albums of 1982 — The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  39. ^ "Major fight economics with quirky rock originals". Billboard. June 12, 1982. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  40. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Devo – New traditionalists". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved June 6, 2019.

External links[edit]