let them brush your rock and roll hair

 

the Cars

 

You know, it's always disappointing when a band releases its best record first. You think, wow, if this is their first album, their later ones will be incredible!, but no, they shot their load, and descended into mediocrity in record time. Such is the case with the Cars, led by Ric Ocasek. Despite a pop-rock masterpiece in the Cars, their later albums (excluding the two I haven't heard yet) are very much a disappointment. My prognosis? They were a singles band, and having to put out a new LP each year weakened Ric's melodic output considerably (obviously he had all the time in the world to craft the songs on the debut).

lineup: Elliot Easton (lead guitar); Greg Hawkes (synth squiggles & saxophone); Ric Ocasek (quavery vocals, rhythm guitar); Ben Orr (less quavery vocals, bass); David Robinson (the guy nobody can remember -- he played drums)

review index: the Cars / Candy-O / Panorama / Shake It Up / Heartbeat City / Greatest Hits / Door to Door

missing albums: none!

apex: the Cars
nadir: Panorama
overlooked: Door to Door


...reader comments...

Markanna2820@aol.com:

Since you claim to be bored, your album reviews of The Cars are both boring and tiresome. You have nothing to back up your comments except your ignorance and stupidity. You wouldn't recognize a successful pop song if it fell on your lopsided head.

Regarding drummer David Robinson (the guy nobody remembers) ... just for your records Einstein, Robinson was successful BEFORE The Cars, drumming on Jonathon Richman's Modern Lovers 1st album. But you've probably never heard of them since you have no musical taste.

Do us Cars fanatics a favor - stick to reviewing music from Brittany Spears, Backstreet Boys & Justin Timberlake ... so called music that you are more obviously qualified to listen to.

Cole Responds:

"Lopsided head"? Does that even qualify as an insult? Actually, I can recognize a successful pop song; it's just that nearly all of the Cars' successful pop songs were the singles.


The Cars - 1978

Rating: ****1/2
Best songs: Just What I Needed, Moving In Stereo, You're All I've Got Tonight, and choose your favorite of the remaining four
Worst songs: Don't Cha Stop, I'm In Touch With Your World

 

This record is a classic, that's all I have to say about it, really. Mark Prindle penned the best review of this album you'll ever see, and I know I couldn't top it.

Like I always say, this is one of those albums you're already familiar with. Two-thirds of this record still gets played on "classic rock" radio constantly, and it sold millions. As such, it's kind of hard for me to find anything to say about it. I love the entire thing except for the last two songs on side one ("I'm In Touch With Your World" is about 1/100th as catchy as the other songs on here, and "Don't Cha Stop" is an annoying little punky thing). "Good Times Roll" is an awesome opener, "All Mixed Up" is an awesome closer, and everything else falls into place quite nicely. So sit back, enjoy, and uhhhh...

Um...

Just... Enjoy, okay?


Candy-O - 1979

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Let's Go
Worst songs: Double Life

 

Oh, good. I thought Shake It Up was dinky new-wave. This is a whole new definition of dinky new-wave pain and suffering. It starts off deceptively enough with the catchy synth-squigglin' tune "Let's Go", but the rest is um... How shall I put this...

Bad?

Well, okay, I wouldn't say that -- it's certainly not as excruciating as Panorama. "Since I Held You" has some nice guitar arpeggios and backing vocals, the title track is fairly engaging, and for the most part the rest is okay (except for the excruciatingly dull "Double Life"), if bland at times. And "Dangerous Type" rips off "Bang a Gong (Get It On)". Sort of. It's a major disappointment coming after the first album, but I guess we can't expect too much when the keyboard player is so creepy-looking.


Panorama - 1980

Rating: **
Best songs: Touch and Go, Panorama
Worst songs: take your pick

 

Oh, screw you, Ric Ocasek. Why you had to drag the rest of the Automobiles into this self-consciously arty territory, I don't know. Who do you think you are, David friggin' Byrne?!

Well, the album maintains some sense of decency for the first couple tracks, which are at least semi-catchy. As for the rest? Forget it, Mr. Bond.


Shake It Up - 1981

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Shake It Up, Since You're Gone, I'm Not the One
Worst songs: side two

 

Mmkay, dinky new-wave is better than pseudo-artpop, but aside from the awesome opening trio of songs (all the singles off the album, pretty much), there ain't a whole lot to be happy about on here. Side one also has the not-bad-but-kinda-goofy "Victim of Love" and generic riffer "Cruiser". Side two sounds like a bunch of Panorama outtakes. In other words, dull.


Heartbeat City - 1984

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Drive, You Might Think, Magic, Hello Again
Worst songs: Heartbeat City

 

When I put this one in the tape player, boy was I surprised. With the layered backing vocals and booming electronic drums, I thought I had bought a copy of Pyromania by mistake! But no, it's just our favorite Shania liplocker and overproducer, Robert "John" "Mutt" "Lange" Lange. So of course instead of crappy new-wave production, it's a bunch of reverb-drenched corporate rock.

The good news, however, is that the songs are good again. And not just the singles, though they're the best songs on the album. The opener "Hello Again" does that Def Leppardy thing I alluded to in the previous paragraph, just with cheesy keyboards rather than metal guitars. And Greg Hawkes re-uses the "Let's Go" synth effect. The rest is nice, except for the crappy title track at the end.


Greatest Hits - 1985

Rating: ****
Best songs: take yer pick
Worst songs: Touch and Go, Tonight She Comes

 

This should be a no-brainer by now. Skip those crappy in-between albums and pick this one up. You don't get all the hits (you'd have to devote over an entire side to the first album alone!), but it's close enough, especially considering it's easy to procure in $1 record bins. You even get a not-available-on-the-albums song called "Tonight She Comes", though it kinda sucks.


Door to Door - 1987

Rating: ***
Best songs: pulling a Starostin here -- any of them will do
Worst songs: nah, not really

 

A quintessential "contractual obligation" album, Door to Door was probably only recorded after the Carrie Fischers decided to break up, but then realized that they were still required to do one more album for Elektra. And Elektra, since they were all rich from selling sixteen billion copies of the Eagles' Greatest Shit 1971-75 (the Coke Era), obliged them even though it's pretty obvious that this album could've been made by a few Toto members and their LA cronies.

Okay, so it might be difficult to get Bobby "Generic" Kimball to sound like Ric "Warbly" Ocasek or Ben "Sounds Just Like Ric" Orr, but my point still stands. Greg Hawkes doesn't even bother to sound inventive on this album, just using your basic DX7 synth presets and the "Let's Go" synth squiggle (on two different songs! geez, Greg, at least twiddle the filter cutoff like all those 3133+ R4\/3R D00DZ do with their TB-303s), and the guitar work is, well, pretty much unchanged, but like everything else here is shined up real good. Ric Ocasek produced the thing -- obviously he got all his ideas from ol' Robert "Shania's Love Mutt" Lange of producing Def Leppard fame.

So uh, hey, there's songs on this recording! Did you know they put songs on tape? They do! The first three tunes on here are pretty cool, actually -- "Leave or Stay" has an incredibly out-of-place, but lovelily atmospheric chorus, "You Are the Girl" cooks up a little bit of that old Cars magic, and "Double Trouble" is a neat metal stomper. Truth be told, most of the songs at least have decent choruses -- at least it's not as painful to sit through as Panorama. And it ends with a weird punk/hair-metal hybrid! This is pretty much one of those albums you can throw on, enjoy while you hear it, then forget about after you're finished. So buy it with low expectations, and you may actually enjoy it.


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