The Cars Get Great Mileage
The comeback business can be mighty tricky. It’s mighty easy to fall prey to desperation and self-consciousness. Does an artist strive for au courant credibility? Is it wiser to stick with a tried-and-true approach? Is there a sweet spot between extremes? Ultimately, any or all of those strategies can work. Maybe the answer is to choose a route and go for it. No dillydallying!
Seems like that’s what the Cars have done, and it’s why their first album in 24 years, Move Like This, is such a delight. The Boston group, which surged up the charts regularly over the course of a decade (beginning with 1978’s “My Best Friend’s Girl”) with a distinctly modern, streamlined sound, don’t fuss with the formula that made them famous.
Think modern-rock staples like “Let’s Go,” “Just What I Needed,” “Shake It Up” and “You Might Think.” The brand-new likes of “Blue Tip” and “Sad Song” fit with the ‘80s hits, both sonically and artistically. It’s like the Cars have been parked in a garage for a couple of decades and are finally back out, buffed to a high gloss and cruising the causeway.
Bassist/vocalist Ben Orr died of cancer in 2000, but the other four founders are on board, along with producer Jacknife Lee, whose client list includes U2, R.E.M. and Snow Patrol. From the first notes, it’s clear these guys are sticking with what brung ‘em: a punchy beat, indelible melodies, keyboard doodles and frontman Rik Ocasek’s deadpan vocals.
It’s a classic model – the aural equivalent of a ’64 Mustang or, more appropriately, a ’78 Corvette.