Saturday, January 11, 2014

Devo. New Traditionalists: Live 1981 Seattle

Devo.  New Traditionalists: Live 1981 Seattle.
Booji Boy Records, 2013.  Devo:

This concert recording is as interesting for the fact that it exists as for its content.  In 1981/1982, Devo toured in support of their new album, New Traditionalists, a more politically explicit album than previous releases (it was their fourth).  It was more controversial to some than its predecessors, less interesting to others.  The tour, which was visually exciting (including giant props and the group wearing plastic Reagan hairpieces), was never captured on video, but a cassette from the Seattle leg of the tour survived, was re-mastered, ignored for a long time, and finally released this year.  It contains most of the New Traditionalist tracks along with a batch of songs from previous albums.  It was released on Record Store Day last year in vinyl. Added to the CD release are two tracks from the Boston concert of the same year, “Working in a Coalmine” and “Beautiful World.”  The sound is very good, so we shouldn’t complain about getting this really nice piece of history.

New Traditionalists has been described as less ironic and more explicit, less artsy and more pop, with darker lyrics than previous albums.  They’d been discovered by a wider audience, including folks in other countries, and were perhaps being more explicit in the process of communicating with folks who didn’t catch their earlier approach.  The music in the concert album is pumped up a bit, with more of a rock sound (a lot more guitar presence), and more electronics.  Some of the subtly of the original tracks are lost, but the punk elements come more to the fore, so whether you prefer this to the original album is a matter of taste.  In the the original NT, to me at least, they still have most of the quirky elements of the earlier releases, but these tend to be smoothed out in the concert performance.  One of the things I noticed is how good the guitar work is.  They could really rock out.  The presence of many of their earlier songs should please purists, while late-comers (ca. 1981) will be happy with what they hear here.  Younger listeners may not notice much of a difference at all and discover Devo for themselves as one of the coolest bands Akron has ever produced.

Personnel:  Mark Mothersbaugh (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Bob Mothersbaugh (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Gerald Casale (keyboards, vocals), Bob Casale (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Alan Myers (drums) [Studio recording personnel]
Tracks:  Opening Theme, Going Under, Through Being Cool, Jerkin’ Back n’ Forth, Soft Things, Pity U, Girl U Want, Planet Earth, Whip It, Race of Doom, Set Change Countdown, Super Thing, Uncontrollable Urge, Mongoloid, Jocko Homo, Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA, Gut Feeling, Gates of Steel.  (Bonus Tracks): Beautiful World, Working in a Coalmine.

Jeff Wanser

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