Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: The Cars “Move Like This”

Rock/Power pop
Who would have thought we’d be treated to a new record from The Cars in 2011? Fans have waited a long, long time for new material from the champions of new wave power pop. Just how long have they waited? The last studio album from the Cars was “Door To Door”, released in 1987.

The new album has been percolating since 2009 as singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek contemplated what to do with his latest batch of songs - those crafted since his 2005 solo outing entitled “Nexterday”. Ocasek soon realized that his best option was the three players with whom he had the most symbiotic relationship. “I just thought, it’s been a long time since I played with these guys,” Ocasek says, “but they’re the ones that will do the best job. They’re the ones that I wouldn’t have to explain things to, they wouldn’t have to get used to the way I write, they’re already inundated with all that. I’ll just put out a feeler and see if they’d be interested in doing it.” He reached out to Greg Hawkes, Elliot Easton, and David Robinson, each of whom were excited at the opportunity to play together again. “It totally clicked immediately,” Ocasek says. “Everybody got right into it as if we had never stopped playing. After two days I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be cool.’”

It is easy to have lofty expectations and think the band might deliver another iconic release like their 1978 self-titled debut or the 1984 blockbuster “Heartbeat City”. You can’t go into “Move Like This” with that attitude or you’re going to be deeply disappointed. The record immediately projects the classic Cars sound, with that trademark quirky keyboard out in front of the riffing guitars, but you’ll soon realize that those big fat 80s hooks that permeated the choruses of the monster hits simply aren’t there. And that is a shame. While the record is a good listen that mixes nostalgia with a contemporary edge, I’m not finding myself wanting to sing along with a lot of these tracks.

Some of the new songs, such as “Blue Tip” and “Sad Song” (the first and second singles, respectively) provide examples of The Cars forging new lyrically territory, taking on topics such as multimedia conglomerations and how they influence our perceptions and opinions. These songs also best capture the signature Cars sound – they could almost have been included on their late 70s albums. “Too Late” is another pleasant and peppy track that comes close to the excellence we know these guys are capable of. “Keep On Knocking” is one of the heaviest tunes the Cars has recorded – the riffs are meaty, but the song doesn’t really go anywhere special. “Soon” is the first ballad on the record, a gentle albeit sleepy tune that lacks the charm of predecessors like “Drive”. “Drag On Forever” injects a little bluesy feel into the record, but the title says it all – the song is only 3:38, but just creeps along like a car with flat tires. “Take Another Look” is the second ballad – superior to “Soon” - but still sounding like a throwaway track pawned off to an 80s movie soundtrack.

The new record is an intriguing addition to the band’s discography, but unfortunately I don’t see it denting the charts. It is a grower that should satisfy most die-hard Cars fans, but most others are going to think the band is just spinning their wheels on this one. “Move Like This” comes out today.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5

The Carsofficial site.

Check out the video for “Sad Song”