DEVO: New Traditionalists Live 1981 Seattle US 2xLP 
- 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
- Jocko Homo
- Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA
- Gut Feeling
- Gates Of Steel
- Flimsy Wrap
This is a first for the The Monk. This year, DEVO released a double album dating from their “New Traditionalists” tour from 1981 on Record Store Day; April 21st, 2012. Within 24 hours I had the album recorded, remastered, and designed for CD! How sweet it is! I’d better not get used to this, because it isn’t likely to happen again any time soon.
The story of this record is intriguing. DEVO’s show for the tour was one of their typically elaborate productions featuring synchronized treadmills and a modern, Greco-Roman temple as they satirized the New Right, who managed to fulfill all of DEVO’s dire warnings and then some in the intervening decades. The thought was to film the set for possible home video. The camera crew’s lighting generator got crossed with the stage lighting generator and blew up both rigs. For insurance to replace the stage lighting rig so that DEVO could still meet their tour commitments meant that there could be no salvageable recordings, audio or video, of the show. Any that existed were destroyed… except for a cassette that a stage crew member personally made straight off the board. This tape was found by a DEVO archivist in a shoebox full of tapes in Bob2’s home 15 years ago! Now it graces my turntable, 31 years after its recording.
I always really enjoyed the “New Traditionalists” album a lot. It has some of my favorite DEVO tunes on it like “Pity U” and “Race Of Doom.” This program starts out with a very generous selection of most of that album before easing into highlights from the previous three albums for the latter half of the set. It’s a pre-MIDI world and you wouldn’t know it from how tight and accomplished the band sound. Anyone familiar with DEVO live recordings would nod in agreement on hearing this set. The sound is almost all keyboards, and I’m guessing that a lot of those leads were played on Yamaha Keytars, of which DEVO were very early adopters. All of the members apart from drummer Alan Meyers, played keyboards in the band in addition to any guitars they also played. For a band that were the bleeding edge of tech for many years, you wouldn’t know it from their live sound. They just sound crisp and syncopated with no problems encountered in translating what is a very studio oriented sound to the live arena.
The separation of the instruments is clear and punchy, given that the master was on 1.875 i.p.s. compact cassette®. Bob2 mastered it straight to DAT and thankfully didn’t kill it with Dolby® playback. The tape hiss is still there, as are the rest of the high frequencies. The bongo solo on “Soft Things” really pops [note to self: Alan Meyers is keeping time on his set – who played these bongos?] as do the roto-toms on personal favorite “Race Of Doom.” The synth leads on that one are very zesty indeed.
Two pseudo-instrumentals crop up in the program. DEVO liked to begin their set with an “overture” of the evening’s fun back then and this tour is no exception. Like the “Freedom Of Choice Theme Song” on the 1980 “DEVO Live EP,” the “Opening Theme” here hits melodies of several songs from “New Traditionalists” before settling flawlessly into “Going Under’s” relentless groove. At the mid point of the set, there’s is an extended “set change countdown” that forms a long intro to “Super Thing.”
Disc two of the set is almost all DEVO classics from the debut album with a ringer from “Freedom of Choice” and “Duty Now For The Future” thrown in for good measure. A friend of mine who saw this tour, said that the setlist omits the encore, which included their single cover of “Workin’ In A Coal Mine,” among others. C’est la vie. Let’s give thanks for the unlikely survival of what amounts to a bootleg of this tour having beaten the odds to get released to the loving public at large. Of course, all 2000 copies are accounted for, apart from the exploitative secondary market. The band’s site, Club-DEVO did have some extras this week that have sold quickly at the $24.98 list.
Having mastered the vinyl in as little as three hours, I felt that I could add congruent material to fill out the disc and I settled on two DEVO flexidiscs I’ve had for decades but not heard until this day. “Flimsy Wrap,” was included in the UK picture disc version of their debut album. It’s a recording of what sounds like a [young] college radio DJ broadcasting from a DEVO show [possibly in SF] in between the end of their set and their encore. The recording begins with the climax of their last song and continues as the DJ fills the airtime while the band are offstage. When the band return and begin playing again, the disc fades out. I bought this separately at Fantasyland records in Atlanta 20 years ago. I don’t have the UK picture disc of their debut album, though I have always owned the UK red vinyl LP of the same.
“Bushwhacked” dates from a 1988 issue of Reflex Magazine and is an archival recording from 1979. I was a subscriber to the mag at that time. The editing of the cut is somewhat eccentric as there is no intro. The tune has obviously been going for a while then the track starts, and the ending is just as cold and abrupt. The tune resurfaced on the band’s Rhino Handmade “Recombo DNA” selection in a different edit/mix, according to internet rumors. [memo to self: must buy that set before it’s OOP!].
Mastering this was like a dream with the minimal amount of pops and clicks on the genuinely MINT vinyl. If I have to master to digital from vinyl, let it all be from clean, new pressings like this. And I did have to do it. The band only made this recording available on LP. There are no download codes or CDs in the pipeline. For now at least. Just 2000 copies of this fine look back at the New Wave canaries in the coal mine warning us about what, by now, has already happened.
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