Rhinofy-New Traditionalists

Once upon a time, KROQ was truly the ROQ Of The 80’s. It morphed overnight from the best free format station in Los Angeles into an outlet that played all those English new wave cuts KMET and KLOS refused to spin, like Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” it became the secret hideaway of L.A.’s hipsters, in a matter of years it was the dominant station in town, able to break a record nationally, all due to the long forgotten programming work of one Rick Carroll. Hell, KROQ was the most valuable station in the nation! It’s part of how Mel Karmazin made his name, running Infinity Broadcasting. And for every career band started on KROQ, like Depeche Mode, there were many one hit wonders, like Toni Basil.

No, don’t tune out! This isn’t about that hit, it’s about another track, that got a plethora of airplay on KROQ and has been almost completely forgotten, “You Gotta Problem.” I’d hear it on the station and swoon. Be energized. Who was this Toni Basil? Who knew she’d been around forever as a choreographer, I thought she was some English chanteuse, this was long before Wikipedia, never mind the Internet. Then I finally bought the latest Devo album and there it was, albeit entitled “Pity You”…who knew!

This was when the band was on a downswing. They were hipster favorites just a few years before, with their robotic cover of “Satisfaction,” never mind “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Mongoloid,” and “Jocko Homo.” They were all over late night TV in their yellow hazmat suits, but then the act got old. This was before MTV truly brought them to the masses, with “Whip It.” This was the lull before the tsunami, the calm before the storm, and “New Traditionalists” is uneven, but it’s my favorite Devo album ever, because of the peaks!

1. “Pity You”

I’m not enough of a forensic listener to tell you exactly what all the sounds on this track are. But I think that’s either synthetic drums or some kind of effect that is so endearing you just want to hear it again and again, like the phasing on “Itchycoo Park.” Then there’s that buzzsaw guitar. And the bass, played on a keyboard..?

Pity you, you never get no satisfaction. But you keep going back, day after day, hour after hour, from where you came for more of the same. That’s the essence of music, you get hooked on a track and play it ad infinitum.

I love “Pity You.” Especially when it breaks down at 1:13. It’s like a western, if a western were filmed on Mars!

This is an orgy of sound. Exquisitely built. It sounds just as modern as it did thirty years ago. It’s timeless.

2. “Love Without Anger”

This is one of those tracks which is reversed. The chorus comes first. But it’s the verses that hook you. And that amazing break at 1:20.

Barbie and Ken in a great big fight
Seems Ken forgot to make it home one night

Huh? Irreverence, it’s the spice of life.

How’d they come up with this stuff?

Meanwhile, the ultimate message is a universal truth, which so many try to deny, to their detriment.

There’s no love without anger! No ongoing relationship without fights! If there’s no antagonism that just means someone’s holding their complaints inside and one day when you think things are going along swimmingly your boyfriend, girlfriend or betrothed is gonna unload on you and leave.

So fight now!

3. “Beautiful World”

This is the one everybody knows, because years later it was featured in a rerecorded version by Target. And insiders laughed, because they flipped the message of the song, you see it’s not a beautiful world! At least not for me.

It’s a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place
Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care
Makes me want to say

It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world

For you
For you
For you

It’s not for me

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Alienation, isolation and depression have been wiped off the map. We’re now a nation of winners. If you’ve got any questions, any complaints, we don’t want to hear them. Just go out and shop and be happy.

4. “Going Under”

Think you heard this all before
Now you’re gonna hear some more
I know a place where dreams get crushed
Hopes are smashed but that ain’t much

Oh, just another loser complaining he was dumped.


This song is so bizarre in concept that you almost can’t fathom it from this distance. Never forget that this was the era where Sparks had a KROQ hit with “I Married A Martian.”

I’m going under, I’m going under..

And where is he going?

To a place where all the mutants go!

With girls with four red lips… It’s a three and a half minute sci-fi adventure!

4.a. “I Married A Martian”

They couldn’t get any traction as Halfnelson, so they changed their name to Sparks, and I always used to see Ron Mael at Jerry’s Deli…

Eventually they had a hit on MTV with Jane Wiedlin entitled “Cool Places,” but this is the first cut that truly entranced me by the act…

I married a Martian
I’m going to Vegas
It isn’t for pleasure
I’m getting a quickie divorce

Huh? This always cracked me up completely, I couldn’t wait for this part of the track.

I married a Martian
Boy am I sorry
I don’t recommend it
To anyone in their right mind

As if you were considering it… But this was back when everybody wasn’t part of one big homogeneous monoculture. There was us…and them. We had KROQ, we had stuff like this. The artists, and that’s what they were, weren’t pandering to their audience, they were on a wild excursion to the limits of their ability to express themselves.

4.b. “Sex Dwarf”

And the hoi polloi think Soft Cell only had one hit. This was gigantic on KROQ, and was as bizarre as “Going Under,” and “I Married A Martian” above.

4.c. “Make A Circuit With Me”

And then there were meaningless trifles on KROQ like this. A one hit wonder by the Polecats. Incredibly infectious, the rest of the stations couldn’t test any limits, they could only play that which sounded just like everything else they were spinning, kind of like Top Forty radio today.

And the track that got all the airplay was the opening cut, “Through Being Cool.” And “Jerkin’ Back ‘N’ Forth” and “Race Of Doom” were cool too.

So pull up these cuts and remember, when you were all about testing limits as opposed to funding your 401(k), when you listened to music not as background, but foreground, when you respected artists instead of having contempt for them.

It was a glorious era.

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