Thirty three years ago The Cars and their singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek introduced us to their quirky, guitar meets synthesizer, new wave brand of music in their self-titled debut album The Cars. It was an instant classic, almost a greatest hits album in itself. For the next nine years, The Cars released five more albums, including the popular Heartbeat City, to the lesser known and hardly purchased, experimental Panorama. No matter what the song, be it “Let the Good Times Roll,” Moving in Stereo” or “Drive,” you knew it was The Cars due to their unique and catchy sound. Fast forward to May, 2011 and the release of their latest cd, Move Like This. After a layoff that skipped two decades, have The Cars managed to recapture their oh, oh it’s magic?
Within thirty seconds of the opening track ,“Blue Tip,” there is no doubt you are listening to The Cars. The signature bass line, albeit no longer from the deceased Benjamin Orr, that meshes with Greg Hawkes’, synthesizer and is soon joined by Ric Ocasek’s choppy singing style takes you back to the early 1980’s new wave sound The Cars owned. The cd’s third track, “Keep on Knocking” is “Magic” meets “Let the Good Times Roll” a rocker not afraid to showcase some of the band’s trademark power chords. If you haven’t broke out your spandex, leggings, headbands, Miami Vice white jacket and big hair by the time you hear the opening hand claps and familiar guitar work in “Sad Song,” then you should look in your parents closet for those items. Move Like This is vintage The Cars. Thankfully, that’s just the way it should be.
Too many times, artists of the 1970’s and 1980’s try and reinvent themselves to fit in with today’s “sound.” They hire the hottest producers of the day and try to integrate their music into what is popular at this moment. The Cars with Move Like This do anything but that and yet it does not seem out of date. Perhaps it’s because the entire original band line up, other that Orr, is intact. Perhaps they realized that sometimes it’s better to stay with the one you brought to the dance. This cd sounds as if it should have followed the release of Heartbreak City, not be on the same hit chart as The Kings of Leon. It’s like seeing a good friend you haven’t run across in twenty years. No matter how long the break, you pick up right where you left off.
Lyrically, well, The Cars have never been about the lyrics. It’s always been about the sound and Move Like This does not disappoint. Sure, Benjamin Orr’s vocals are missed on ballads like “Soon.” But unlike the doomed relationship Ocasek sings about in “Drag on Forever,” let’s hope The Cars renaissance does. Fans of The Cars? You have another cd to add to your collection. New to The Cars? Give this a try anyway. Somewhere Ronald Reagan is smiling down on this return to the 1980’s sound.