New Traditionalists

New Traditionalists is the fourth studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in August 1981, on the labels Warner Bros. and Virgin. 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. The album's sound continued in the vein of their previous studio album Freedom of Choice, with synthesizers moved even further to the forefront and the guitars became more subdued. Some of the tracks featured drum machines for the first time on a Devo album. In addition, the lyrics are frequently dark and vitriolic. It features the minor hits "Through Being Cool" and "Beautiful World."

New Traditionalists
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 26, 1981 (1981-08-26)
RecordedDecember 1980–April 1981
StudioThe Power Station, Manhattan, New York City
Devo chronology
Freedom of Choice
New Traditionalists
Oh, No! It's Devo
Alternative cover
International cover
International cover

With the success of "Whip It" and its associated album Freedom of Choice, Devo had attracted a new, more pop-oriented audience that was less interested in Devo's artistic theories and intelligent lyrics. In response, New Traditionalists was intended to be a much darker, deeper and serious album. The lead-in track, "Through Being Cool," was a direct attack on new fans who didn't understand Devo's message.

Most of the songs on the album are darker and more direct than on previous Devo albums. The exception to this is "Beautiful World," whose message seems optimistic at first but changes as the song progresses. This is made even clearer by the song's promotional video. On "Enough Said," Devo made one of their first overtly political statements, attacking world leaders and the political process: "Take all the leaders from around the world/Put them together in a great big ring/Televise it as the lowest show on Earth/And let them fight like hell to see who's king."

As with every Devo album and tour, the band developed a new look for the album, eschewing the energy dome headgear and replacing it with the plastic "New Traditionalist Pomp," reportedly modeled after President John F. Kennedy's famous pompadour, though in one interview, co-founder and bass guitarist Gerald Casale claims it to have been modeled on Ronald Reagan's own hairstyle. They also wore blue V-neck T-shirts with the New Traditionalists astronaut logo on the black sleeves. This shirt can be seen on the US and Australian 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.

Production issuesEdit

New Traditionalists was recorded on a then-new brand of 2" 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.[1] All of this resulted in New Traditionalists having a murkier and darker sound than previous Devo albums.


The name of the album was inspired by a Japanese ultra-right wing political group called the New Traditionalists. 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."[1]

"Working in the Coal Mine"Edit

New Traditionalists was originally packaged with a bonus 7" single of the band's cover of "Working in the Coal Mine." 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.[2] 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" singles and included them with initial copies of the LP. Most CD and cassette pressings of New Traditionalists include "Working in the Coal Mine" as a bonus track.

The original LP bonus package also included a poster drawn by a member of the Church of the SubGenius. It portrays the band on stage, with some iconic American characters (a Native American, a Pilgrim, a cowboy, a hippie, a punk rocker and a modern housewife) in the audience.

Promotional music videosEdit

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.

"Beautiful World" is considered by many fans and critics to be Devo's greatest music video, setting the tune to a series of connected images from film archives. The video 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 timeslot—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.


The New Traditionalists tour was a large undertaking. Devo performed on treadmills in front of an Ancient Greek temple styled structure. Behind the members, between the pillars, small screens displayed rear-projected images. Devo carried an impressive sound system on the tour as well. 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 it was destroyed due to an electrical short. However, Devo appeared on the TV show Fridays in 1981 and performed five songs with a full stage set. Several audio bootlegs of the tour are also available, varying in quality.

In 2012, Devo commemorated the New Traditionalists tour by releasing Live in Seattle 1981 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."[3] It was later issued on CD with two bonus tracks from a performance in Boston, Massachusetts.

Tour Dates[4][5]
Dates Venue Notes
First Leg (1981)
October 9, 1981 Fridays, Los Angeles, CA TV Appearance, broadcast live.
October 13, 1981 Metropolitan Sports Center, Bloomington, MN
October 14, 1981 Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
October 16, 1981 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
October 17, 1981 Riverside Theater, Milwaukee, WI
October 18, 1981 Ohio Center, Columbus, OH
October 19, 1981 Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
October 21, 1981 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
October 23, 1981 Palace Theatre, Albany, NY Devo appeared on The Tomorrow Show to promote this concert.
October 24, 1981 New Westchester Theatre, Tarrytown, NY
October 25, 1981 Shea's Buffalo Theatre, Buffalo, NY
October 26, 1981 Massey Hall, Toronto, ON, Canada
October 28, 1981 Hill Auditorium, University Of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
October 31, 1981 Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY Featured an extended opening song as the band's stage set rose from the orchestra pit
November 1, 1981 College Avenue Gymnasium, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
November 2, 1981 Ritchie Coliseum, University Of Maryland, College Park, MD
November 5, 1981 Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA Broadcast on FM Radio, excerpts from it were released on New Traditionalists - Live in Seattle 1981
November 6, 1981 Ocean State Performance Arts Center, Providence, RI
November 7, 1981 Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA
November 8, 1981 Calderone Concert Hall, Hempstead, NY
November 10, 1981 Hampton Beach, VA
November 12, 1981 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA
November 13, 1981 O'Donnell Center, University Of Florida, Gainesville, FL
November 14, 1981 Sunrise Musical Theatre, Sunrise, FL
November 15, 1981 Jai-Alai Fronton, Tampa, FL
November 18, 1981 Saenger Theater, New Orleans, LA
November 19, 1981 Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX
November 20, 1981 Winter Garden Ballroom, Dallas, TX
November 21, 1981 Austin City Auditorium, Austin, TX
November 23, 1981 Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, OK
November 24, 1981 Macky Auditorium, Boulder, CO
November 27, 1981 Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR
November 28, 1981 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA This show was recorded and released as New Traditionalists - Live in Seattle 1981 In 2012
November 29, 1981 Sam Carver Gymnasium, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
November 30, 1981 Pacific Coliseum Concert Bowl, Vancouver, BC, Canada
December 3, 1981 Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA
December 4, 1981 San Francisco Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
December 5, 1981 University Of Nevada Gym, Reno, NV
December 6, 1981 Main Pavilion, Sonoma Beach Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA
December 8, 1981 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
December 10, 1981 The Forum, Englewood, CA
December 12, 1981 Orange Pavilion, San Bernardino, CA
December 14, 1981 Selland Arena, Fresno Convention Center, Fresno, CA
December 16, 1981 Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Arizona State Fairgrounds, Phoenix, AZ
December 17, 1981 Tucson Community Center, Tucson, AZ
December 19, 1981 California Theatre, San Diego, CA Devo performed twice on this date
December 20, 1981 Bakersfield Civic Auditorium, Bakersfield, CA
December ??, 1981 The Merv Griffin Show, Hollywood, CA TV Appearance, Broadcast January 8, 1982
Second Leg (1982)
January 25, 1982 Logan Campbell Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
January 27, 1982 Town Hall, Wellington, New Zealand
January 30, 1982 Town Hall, Christchurch, New Zealand
February 2, 1982 Festival Hall, Brisbane, Australia Devo performed twice on this date
February 4, 1982 Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia
February 5, 1982
February 6, 1982 Devo performed twice on this date
February 8, 1982 Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia
February 9, 1982
February 12, 1982 Countdown, Melbourne, Australia TV Appearance, Broadcast February 14, 1982
February 13, 1982 Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia
February 15, 1982 Memorial Drive, Adelaide, Australia
February 17, 1982 Entertainment Centre, Perth, Australia
February 22, 1982 Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena, Honolulu, HI


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
Robert Christgau(B)[7]
Rolling Stone     [8]

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" (a cover of the Lee Dorsey song, written by Allen Toussaint) peaked at No. 43 on the Pop Singles chart. 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. "Going Under" appeared in an episode of the television show Miami Vice entitled "Heart of Darkness".

Track listingEdit

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
6."Race of Doom" 3:44
7."Love Without Anger" 2:37
8."The Super Thing" 4:21
9."Beautiful World" 3:35
10."Enough Said"
Total length:33:28
Additional tracks




  • Karat Faye – engineer


Weekly chartsEdit

Chart Peak
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart[10] 3
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[11] 32
New Zealand Albums Chart[12] 6
UK Albums Chart[13][14] 50
US Billboard 200[15] 23
US Record World 24


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia 75,000+[16]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[17] Gold 7,500^

^shipments figures based on certification alone



  1. ^ a b "Tell Me About That Album: Devo's Live in Seattle 1981". Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  2. ^ "DEVOLUTION FOR DUMMIES: Q&A With Mark Mothersbaugh". June 27, 2008. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  3. ^ "DEVO "Live 1981 Seattle" 2-LP Set: Record Store Day". Archived from the original on April 18, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  4. ^ "DEVO Live Guide - 1981". Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  5. ^ "DEVO Live Guide - 1982". Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  6. ^ Allmusic review
  7. ^ "Robert Christgau: CG". Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  8. ^ "Rolling Stone review". Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  9. ^ "Warner Bros. Records and DEVO Announce the Release of Re-Mastered Versions of "DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE" and "NEW TRADITIONALISTS"". Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 88. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ "Search – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  12. ^ " – Discography Devo". © 2006–2010 Hung Medien / Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  13. ^ Warwick, 2004. p.320
  14. ^ "Official Charts > Devo". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  15. ^ "Devo > Charts & Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved June 9, 2008.
  16. ^ "Major fight economics with quirky rock originals". Billboard. June 12, 1982. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  17. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Devo – New traditionalists". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved June 6, 2019.

External linksEdit