CD Review: The Cars "Move Like This"
June 17, 2011
It's hard to believe that it has been 24 years since rock legends The Cars last released a studio album, which easily doubles the years they were together in the first place. Yes, it has been a long time coming for Cars fans and as it turns out, well worth the wait. Especially, considering most thought it would never happen to begin with.
Original Cars members Ric Ocasek(guitar/lead vocals), Elliot Easto(guitar/backing vocals), Greg Hawkes(keyboards/backing vocals)and David Robinso(drums/backing vocals)are back, however, with the passing of original bassist and vocalist Benjamin Orr in 2000, it was decided that Orr was simply not replaceable, with bass duties split between Hawkes, Ocasek and co-producer of the project, Jacknife Lee. Lee has also worked with REM, U2 and Weezer.
Recorded at Millbrook Sound Studios in upstate New York and Village Studios in Los Angeles, Move Like This certainly re-captures the essence of what made this band so unique from the beginning: opaque lyrics and synth-infused rhythms, precise drum patterns, quirky pop hooks and distinctive, guitar flourishes. In fact, some of of these songs could pass as "left over" tracks from past Cars albums.
The opening "Blue Tip" immediately captures that unique Cars sound with its pulsating bass line, punchy keyboard bits and Ocasek's sublime vocal output, creating an infectious vibe perfect for a late-night cruise. The following "Too Late" as well, carries that classic Cars feel, sounding like some lost B-side from the Candy-O album.
"Keep On Knocking" offers a heavier side to the proceedings, featuring Easton's thick power chords(and a fantastic, trippy solo)mixed with a heavy keyboard drone, while the rockers "Sad Song" and "Free" take fans on another trip down memory lane with syncopated hand-claps, driving beats and that trademark "donk-donk-donk-donk" bass line, all tied together through Hawkes' colorful keyboard embellishments and the band's pristine vocals.
The ballads "Soon" and "Take Another Look" contrast nicely with the otherwise snappier content, with the latter emerging beautifully like a breezy forgotten track from the Heartbeat City album. With “Drag On Forever”, "It's Only" and the closing "Hits Me", Ocasek & Co. also touch upon a lighter, more simple slice of pop, which The Cars had always mixed into their repertoire, despite an accusation of always being too serious and calculating.
Although a few of the lyrics are head-scratchers(“Your waxy face is melting on your lap, I sat there trying to crush a ginger snap”)even by Ocasek's eccentric standards, Move Like This walks a fine line between igniting that classic Cars sound and unique style, without sounding like a "re-tread" of years gone by. Indeed, The Cars have once again, hit the highway on ramp and the fans can't wait for the next ride.
Joe Milliken, a freelance writer and music journalist based in Vermont, is currently writing a biography book about the late, Benjamin Orr of The Cars.
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