Sunday, June 5, 2011

Welcome back to the 80's...and here is your car

The Cars were one of many standard bearers for new wave in the 80's - new wave with catchy synths as the icing on top of a solid rock'n'roll+pop cake.  So just what will they sound like, with the original lineup (minus bassist Benjamin Orr) all together for the first time Since 1986?  Simple answer: Just as good as they always were.  There may be nothing quite so instant-classic as You Might Think - but that isn't a bad thing - and better that a band doesn't repeat itself anyhow.

"Blue Tip" opens up as if to be a reminder that they're back, and yet sounds like they never really went away, spinning a delightfully snide mock-fest of pop culture and hipster trends alike - yet never sounding bitter, always sprightly and alive with good humor.  The tempo keeps apace for a few tracks, slowing down a bit for "Soon" - a gorgeous ballad mixing both deep and simplistic lyrics for a track that puts a smile on your face even as it dips into the bittersweet.  "Sad Song" kicks the tempo back into high gear with another successful entry in the "songs whose emotional feel is a polar opposite of what the title suggests" (Guster's extra-bouncy track "How it feels to have a broken heart" comes to mind as another of that kind).

Later on Ocasek and the boys slow it down again with "Take Another Look" - positioned as it is  the 8th track on the album, it makes a perfectly spaced breather between the faster tracks.  Not as end to end perfect as "Soon" but no sloucher either.  "It's Only" and the the thudding closer "Hits Me" are just as well crafted, but seem to bring the album to an abrupt end - like story missing the closing chapter - at least given how well the album flows to the ears up to that point.

Bottom line, whether you've never picked up a cars album before or if you own every one from their 80's heyday, "Move Like This" is a worthy addition to your collection.  Sharp instrumentation, wry and clever lyrics, and a musical sensibility grounded in today but with knowing nods to the past - these all come together to create a fine album.

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