New Traditionalists

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Devo followed up their platinum-selling pop breakthrough in typically perverse fashion: New Traditionalists presents a band seemingly aghast at being pegged as a novelty act by some of their own satirical targets. Apparently deciding -- admittedly, not without reason -- that America's comprehension of irony was sorely lacking, Devo largely abandons its sense of absurdity on New Traditionalists, explicitly stating their cultural views and at times calling attention (as with the otherwise terrific single "Beautiful World") to their already obvious sarcasm, in case anyone missed the point. The problem was, Devo's cult wasn't missing the point, and with all their quirky trappings, the band was hardly likely to reach most of their newfound pop audience by making their message more straightforward. Still, despite some heavy-handedness, New Traditionalists is hardly a total failure. The opener "Through Being Cool" actually benefits from the new outlook, making for a clear and effective statement of purpose. It sets the stage for some of Devo's angriest, most embittered songs, which often function as connections between new wave and the punk attitudes that were so crucial in its creation. Devo might have pulled it off if their songwriting hadn't also begun to slip -- too many tracks end up flat-out unmemorable. They try a couple new things arrangement-wise (adding more electronic percussion), but nothing that drastically overhauls their minimalist synth-pop, and that lack of variety is more glaring when paired with the melodic deficiencies. New Traditionalists' repetition of musical and lyrical ideas foreshadows the band's decline, but really, at least half of the album is worthwhile. It just doesn't quite recapture the inventiveness or pointed humor of its predecessors.

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