Monday, December 17, 2007

No. 282: The Cars

Band: The Cars
Album: The Cars
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The Cars' success helped bring New Wave into the mainstream as human ugly stick Ric Ocasek's guitar work and songwriting created a sort of proto-nerd rock.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm comfortable with this placement.
Best song: "Just What I Needed" is one of the great lead singles of all time.
Worst song: "I'm in Touch With Your World" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely.

I wish I still had the booklet, but the liner notes from one of the Cars' greatest hits compilations (obviously, I'm paraphrasing) described the band as in a precarious New Wave place. The Cars were just punk enough for punks to like them, but also New Wave enough to get shows at CBGB's and have the punk rockers to enjoy them, as well. In essence, they got the best of both worlds.

On the strength of the band's first record, it's tough to argue. In fact, the first record has just the smallest tinge of New Wave quirkiness that the Talking Heads reveled in. Rather, Ric Ocasek's songwriting and Roy Thomas Baker's clean production made it so that the band would find serious radio play.

It is, really, a pretty amazing record. The band used to joke that the album should've been called "The Cars' Greatest Hits" from the start three (!) songs charted from the album. Those three songs -- "Just What I Needed," "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Good Times Roll" -- are all great fun and the album has a few non-single tracks of awesomeness.

"Don't Cha Stop" and "You're All I've Got Tonight" are both tons of fun, while "Moving in Stereo" is a signature song from the 1980s, thanks to its place in one of the most famous scenes in movie history.

The Cars are, for the most part, a greatest hits band. But, this album is a ton of fun.

1 comment:

kellydwyer said...

Somewhere in my parents' basement, I have a Rolling Stone with an interview with Hank Rollins from either 1992 or 1993. I think 1993. I remember reading it on the night I watched a 120 minutes with Milla Jovovich on it, and without heading towards a Google search that I know my girlfriend will eventually find, I'm just going to say "1993."

Anyway, I like Henry. I like some Black Flag, nothing from his solo work, some of his comedy (let's call it what it is), and the fact that he took the time to talk to myself and a couple of friends following a comedy show of his back in 1994. I really liked his bit about throwing random things at Mike Watt and D. Boon (such as, "what do you think of the designated hitter rule?") and watching a row result. He extended that riff for us, but I can't remember much of it.

Either way, in the RS interview, he and whatever pop culture savvy smartaleck of the day (that's not a slam), either heroes Jancee Dunn or Chris Mundy, asked about the 70s resurgence that seemed to have grown up around that year. Rollins said he appreciated it, but warned that (and this is all unsolicited) we wouldn't see the same when it comes to 80s nostalgia.

THIS, I remember.

"(what's left resurrect?) The Cars? The Talking Heads? Skinny ties?"

Not the most prescient chap.

Somehow, he's still not as cynical as he should be. He still should have thought that we'd be above resurrecting those times. As someone who has fond memories of mowing his parents' lawn to this Cars tape during the 1996 Playoffs, I'll have to abstain from this vote, and go back to bed.