The Cars: Move Like This

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Posted May 25, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0
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The Cars are steering their way into their first studio album in over twenty years – and they actually perfer cruise control

Flashback trip courtesy of Dr. Emmet “Doc” Brown’s time machine to the Nu Wave innocence of the Eighties: With a slight motivational push taken from Duran Duran’s 2010 comeback LP (All You Need Is Now), The Cars are back. And they should be. Before essentially breaking up as a band in 1988, the five-piece Boston band redefined Nu Wave with their heavy usage of rockabilly, powerpop and synth-driven garage rock, even influencing modern-rock bands like The Strokes and Weezer. Their biggest success surrounds hits like “Shake It Up” and “Magic,” but none of their Eighties output toppled the glorious adult contemporary apparition of “Drive.” Two decades later since their last album, Door to Door (1987), and after some of the members teamed up with Todd Rundgren with the hopes of reliving the glory years from each of their catalogs and after mourning the loss of bassist Benjamin Orr, the remaining members of The Cars (Ric Ocasek, Greg Hawkes, Elliot Easton and David Robinson) are hoping to pick up where they left off.

At first listen, Move Like This is exactly what The Cars is most remembered for. Like a mad rush of Roxy Music and Buddy Holly, the ten-track collection opens up with effective pop-laden excavations on opening tracks “Blue Tip” and “Too Late.” Remarkably The Cars handle most of the album’s production with grace, allowing Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., Snow Patrol) access to five of the album cuts. Although lead singer Ric Ocasek handles all the lead vocals in his traditional David Bowie-meets-Lou Reed style, it’s hard not to miss Orr, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. His dreamy vocals, best recalled on “Drive,” and the absence of smooth AC filler leaves the album feeling more like the nonstop upbeat jam session it technically is. But “Soon,” a mild-mannered peaceful tune, happens to trace some of the ambiance and romanticism of “Drive” (“When the starry night is left to dawn/The thought of you just keeps me dreaming on”) and saves the album from being a total adrenaline rush.

After awhile, Ocasek’s sleepy vocals seem to drag the album’s tempo, slowing up delicious grooves like “Drag On Forever,” but he does a fine job on the album’s first half where he pulls off performances reminiscent of MTV’s golden era, particularly on “Free” and the giddy oxymoron of “Sad Song,” where the upbeat cheerfulness of the bleepy synths and engaging rhythms contradict the nature of the obvious song title. Some listeners will probably start questioning why Ocasek didn’t assert some form of magnetism to Auto-tune, or at least used some extra time on his pitch. With a little extra vocal homework from The Cars’ frontman, songs like “Too Late,” where the band uses classic rock ‘n roll harmonies and a solid locomotive arrangement, would have easily transcended into an instant radio gem. But it is what it is – The Cars effectively sound as if they hadn’t missed one beat. Unlike most bands who normally call it quits under unfortunate circumstances, they sound like one unit, performing effortlessly and revived. On a reunion album that never should have been from the beginning, coming from Ocasek’s declarations of “never” back in 1997, The Cars break through the barrier of impossibility to reintroduce themselves two decades later and to make up for lost time.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 10 May 2011
  • Label: Hear Music
  • Producers: Jacknife Lee, The Cars
  • Spin This: “Sad Song,” “Soon,” “Blue Tip”


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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