The Cars

The Cars

Elektra Records, 1978

http://www.thecars.org/

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/30/2014

With their immediate, thrusting energy charging forth into the future, the Boston-bred band known as the Cars drove headfirst onto the radio dial with this, their 1978 debut. The album kicks off in typical rock fashion, with their trademark guitar jabs, on “Good Times Roll,” then continuing on with the equally popular “My Best Friend’s Girl,” ultimately rounding out the hit trio of tunes with the one track I could live without hearing again, “Just What I Needed.” Only 1984’s “You Might Think” is more played out.

But I say screw the hits. From the percolating and hypnotic fourth track “I’m In Touch With Your World” on, it’s pure sonic bliss. Granted, the keyboards are used sparingly on this first effort as to not alienate more traditional, mainstream listeners, but it’s the way tech whiz Greg Hawkes uses them that is so cutting edge. Happily, they are featured front and center on “Moving In Stereo,” a song that would have fallen as flat as a flapjack without their flourishes. In the 1970s, the synthesizer was considered the sound of the future. Looking back on it all now, they were pretty darned cool. They helped inspire all those wildly colorful (and yes, tacky) ‘80s fashions!my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Producer Roy Thomas Baker does an amazing job presenting the band in the best possible way. For a first release, this eponymous album has just enough polish to conceal any musical flaws. The art direction team also deserves to be singled out for their contributions. The album covers, though reminiscent of what Roxy Music did earlier, feature glamorous models posing suggestively and were undoubtedly designed to attract a largely male audience. And were these red blooded American males hooked, lining up in droves to snatch up each and every one of the band’s first five albums (the cover art for 1987’s Door To Door and the 2011 reunion set Move Like This only featured silhouettes of the band, which just wasn’t the same).

It’s important to note that the Cars always had two lead vocalists in Ric Ocasek and the late Benjamin Orr, but on record, I’ll be damned if I could tell the two apart. While they may have sounded virtually identical, Orr was always the photogenic one that the ladies would swoon over. Hey, they had to attract female audience members somehow. The tall, thin and Frankenstein-like Ocasek just didn’t have the same appeal. Though try telling that to the gorgeous model Paulina Porizkova he wound up marrying. She would beg to differ! To each his or her own, I guess.

Drummer David Robinson shows off what he can do on the rollicking crazy train of “Don’t Cha Stop.” If this one doesn’t have you doing the pogo all over your living room, nothing will. These upbeat moments really are standouts in my mind, but I’ve always been something of a closet adrenaline junkie anyway. For “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” the band throws everything they have at the wall to see what sticks and somehow, it all does. Yep, by the end of the song I too was bowing down and begging for mercy.

The Cars would build a memorable career, influencing bands like Collective Soul along the way, but this was where it all not-so-humbly started. Now just you wait to see what they would do for their follow-up.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+


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