Tag Archives: Cars

The Cars – Move Like This (album review)

The Cars – Move Like This (Hear Music / Concord) CD review

It’s been almost a quarter century since the last studio album from the Cars, yet they’ve never really gone away.  Turn the radio on in any US city and you’re bound to hear their music: classic rock, adult contemporary, even alternative stations still have them in heavy rotation.  The band’s music has been featured in commercials (Circuit City was just one company that used “Just What I Needed” to great effect), in video games (Rock Band), and even in the music of newer acts like Weezer and Fountains of Wayne (“Stacy’s Mom” is a total Cars’ rip-off).

The reason for this wide appeal has always been the band’s uncanny ability to mix mainstream rock with the avant-garde.  With all this popularity, it makes sense that we would eventually see the Cars resurface.  For Move Like This, their seventh album, the group has been reduced to a quartet with the passing in 2000 of bassist / vocalist Benjamin Orr, whose voice graced many of their biggest songs, including “Drive,” “Moving in Stereo,” and “Just What I Needed.”  The band chose not to bring in an outsider, instead having keyboardist Greg Hawkes handle the bass duties.

The album opens with “Blue Tip” — the simple guitar riff, driving beat and vintage synthesizer signals that the Cars may have aged, but their sound is still intact.  And amazingly, Ric Ocasek’s voice hasn’t lost any of the qualities that made him one of the most unique singers in rock.  Despite having a huge gap in their catalog, the band sounds completely at ease in their sound.  None of the ten tracks are direct copies of their older material; instead many of the songs have hints of the past.  “Sad Song,” the record’s first single, has guitar and handclaps that recall “My Best Friend’s Girl,” before morphing into a shimmering chorus.  “Free,” with its frenetic rhyming scheme and insistent riff sounds the most like their earliest work, while “Too Late” is very melodic, and could’ve easily fit on Heartbeat City.  Of the two ballads, “Soon” has a lullaby quality, while “Take Another Look” is the better of the two, with its pulsating keyboards.  There’s even an all-out rocker in “Keep on Knocking.”  Not surprising, it’s Hawkes’ clever synth lines that help keep things interesting – he always was their secret weapon.   The only thing really missing, besides Orr’s soulful vocals, is the slinky, rockabilly-infused guitar solos from Elliott Easton.  While there is plenty of rhythm guitar, his signature leads are strangely absent — he’s listed on the credits, but you’d never really know it from listening.  It’s a small gripe, considering how solid the album is – only the ironic “Drag on Forever” is a dud.    As in all good Cars’ records, Move Like This races by at a lean 37 minutes, begging for the repeat button.  A long-overdue, but triumphant return.  –Tony Peters

Classic Album – The Cars – debut (CD review)

The Cars (1978) – – CD review –

The debut album from the Cars still sounds fresh, and you can’t get away from the songs; they get played on classic rock, oldies, AC, even all-eighties stations dig back for their songs; and for good reason.

The Cars is a perfect blend of the seventies rock that was out then, and the eighties New Wave that would soon rule the charts.  There’s enough guitar grit in the crunchy power chords and Elliot Easton’s rubbery solos to keep the rock guys happy, but there’s also just enough element of odd in Greg Hawkes keyboards, and especially in Ric Ocasek’s and Benjamin Orr’s vocals, which sound British, even though they were from Boston.

I don’t know how many times “Just What I Needed” gets played, yet it still jumps out of the speakers.  Smartly, side one opens with all three singles (“Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Just What I Needed”) in a row.  And, any red-blooded male will have a soft spot for “Moving in Stereo,” later featured to great effect in Fast Times at Ridegmont High (Phoebe Cates, anyone?).

It’s easy to want to give credit for the great sound and arrangements on the record to stalwart producer Roy Thomas Baker.  However, a 2002 reissue of this album featured these songs in demo form, showing that the Cars had these songs already in tip-top shape.  The only thing Baker added was a fine layer of gloss and his signature Queen-like background vocals.

The album is sequenced so the songs follow with little or no space between them, especially on side two, where the songs actually fade into one another.   This was neither dinosaur rock nor weird New Wave but a perfect mix of both.  The Cars would keep this mix together for their followup, the decent Candy-O, and then plunge headlong into New Wave and keyboards would dominate their remaining albums.  They would score bigger hits, but the Cars still stands as their greatest achievement.  — Tony Peters

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Let me set the scene for this one: it’s my tenth birthday and I have just gotten my first stereo system! That alone would have been enough, but when your best friend shows up with a copy of “The Cars“ debut album for your gift, it is a birthday I will never forget. The best friend in the story you ask? The one and only Tony Peters! What a great pick too.  This kid knew good music before he could walk. Benjamin Orr, the bass player, grew up in Lakewood, Ohio and went to school with my aunt. He was Benjamin Orzechowski at that time. They just called him Benny 11 letters. Every track on this album is great.   This album begs to be listened to in its entirety and the last two tracks “Moving in Stereo”and “All Mixed Up” demand it. This album is sure to be a favorite for anyone.  — James McCann