Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
The second and final album of The Cars discography is twice as long but half as good.
It's still really solid, and it's filled mostly with songs I listen to with some frequency, but the first album is just fucken classic, and spans only three years of creativity. This album starts with material from the early 80s and ends with the band's final album (sans bassist and vocalist Benjamin Orr who passed before the band got back together) from 2011.
The wide scope of years means there's a lot of variety in the instrumental and production style of the various tracks, which makes for a cool album overall, but Let The Good Times Roll was a laser focused moment in a band's career, and I could listen to it on repeat.
I might have even done so at work earlier this week.
But there's a lot of great here, too. Only a smattering of hits, but they're the hits that I heard on the radio growing up. I didn't hear the band's earlier albums until I was in high school, which was well after the band broke up (they released no new material between 1989 and 2011).
I'm not precisely sure why I've done both album covers with The Jokerman font, but it's probably close to something from one of their videos.
Heartbreak City is the previous album's sound being swept into a pile of classic rock. The synths are highly reminiscent of Corey Hart's "Sunglasses At Night", mentioned in my last post. But it's much more laid back, with a quiet spoken set of bridges instead of an intense shouty chorus. It probably sounded retro even when it was released.
Go Away falls into every category and trope of the last track. It's a mediocre The Cars track, but it exemplifies that mediocrity in a way that warrants listening to, if you like the band. Of all the songs that just sound like quintessential The Cars album tracks, this is the most memorable.
The first actual hit from this album is Magic, which returns us to the full blown 8-bit feel of the first album with the wonderful grind of a simple 80s guitar riff. I rank Uh-oh it's magic with Oops, I did it again for my favorite pop lyrics that acknowledge the need for apology by using infantile language. That this track hasn't been mashed up with Insane Clown Posse's "Miracles" is a travesty.
It's Not The Night keeps its fists wrapped tightly around that 8-bit heart with an almost Hall & Oates vocal. I imagine a video for this song would just include Ric Ocasek constantly discorporating and reappearing in different eras because of the jingly transition effect that begins the song and recurs throughout. This is The Most 80s Movie Montage Theme the band ever recorded. It should have been the theme for a sci-fi fantasy movie about skateboarding.
Coming Up You is obviously meant for an 80s rom com. A bunch of twenty-somethings shrugging after they do something silly, and then throwing their arms around each other, and maybe doing the lean-in, edge of lips kiss that was so popular at the time. It would never make it a single, but everyone would remember the scene fondly, or ironically. It's the closest thing The Cars have to a Too Many Cooks moment.
Eeping through the previous song's fade out, You Are The Girl hits you with an incredibly noticeable but not very memorable bassline, and a soft rock vocal style that hair bands used when recording their one ballad on every heavy metal album from the late 80s. I'm not sure whether it's because they're purposefully so vague, but I really appreciate that every The Cars song about unrequited love or breaking up with someone manages to have aged well. There's never a friendzoney feel or blaming someone else for not loving them enough, it's always more like this song You are the girl of my dreams even though you point to the door. Why? It doesn't matter, we're left to assume that it's probably the singer's fault, but he's not going to be a martyr about it.
Why Can't I Have You keeps this aesthetic. Oh sure, she's always breaking my heart in two but it's
because I tripped and stumbled, not because she's a jerk.
While I appreciate that their love lyrics are never problematic, they're also often not very good. They're inoffensive fluff rhyming end and bend, down and around. The highlight of Too Late is the rhyming of line and clementine. The rest is pretty standard pop lyrics.
The 2011 track, Free, owes its guitar riffs to 21st century pop punk and its chorus to late 90s Beatles inspired Britpop. With harder vocals, it could be a Vines song. But the 8-bit synth it owes to the band's own legacy.
I'm Not The One feels like the closing theme for a Legend Of Zelda game with an 80s chorus going round and round.
Wound Up On You has the least smooth transition of the album. It's almost too bright with its synths. I almost cut the song several times. But it has a cinematic depth to it that feels necessary on this album. It doesn't feel like a particular movie. There are parts that remind me of a traveling scene from a puppet based fantasy movie, and the chorus belongs in a melodramatic film about two Wall Street investors that accidentally fall in love, even though they're both trying for the same promotion.
Stranger Eyes is a kind of steampunky masterpiece suited for the opening theme of a cartoon, probably with elves or dwarves. I mean, the song is clearly about sex, but in that way that you could still use it in a kids movie, and they'd have no idea. It would be a better fit than that time they used Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed" to promote The Tigger Movie.
One of the most Carsiest The Cars songs ever recorded is You Might Think. I'm not sure it's possible to even like The Cars if you don't love this weird little love song.
Closing out Side A is one of those brooding 80s stalker ballads, Fine Line. Though, with this song, it's hard to tell if it's an unrequited love, or if he's actually singing it to his equally weird partner.I like this track, but it definitely makes me sleepy.
Unlike the other album, Side A and Side B are nowhere near the same length. Side A being thirteen minutes longer. If it helps, imagine the thirteen minutes of silence are at the beginning of Side A, making the opening Hello of "Hello Again" all the more relevant.
Hello Again is a fun, bouncy 8-bit song about ... oh, it doesn't matter, just bop your head and enjoy the weird, little ride.
What if The Cars tried to play a Metallica song? Well, it might sound like Door To Door. In that it sounds nothing like Metallica, but has furious drums, relatively loud and simple guitar riffs, and it buries the eeps and synths in the mix. Still, it's The Cars song most likely to get people displaying devil horns.
Looking For Love is another generic love song that benefits from the unusual vocals, and what sounds like a slightly vocoded occasional background vocal.
But building out of the end of the track is another The Cars hit, Shake It Up! It's so 80s that every time you listen to it, you'll find a sweat band or a leg warmer mixed in with your laundry. Jelly bracelets will show up in your sock drawer. The cabinet beneath your sink will fill with Aquanet. It will all be worth it.
Woah. We have left the 80s. Sure, there are some eeps and hand claps in Blue Tip, but it is definitely twenty-first century production. Ocasek is higher in the mix. The rhymes, however, are just as basic as ever. That's a good thing. The world doesn't really want or need a serious, well-crafted, political The Cars song.
Is there some electric glockenspiel mixed in with the chimy keyboards of Strap Me In? Worth it, if so. They clash so wonderfully with the driving guitars. This almost sound like an 80s remix track. Again, it would work really well for a motivational scene from a movie. This time, it's a time travel adventure, and the last time they used the machine someone died. Will the protagonist survive this trip? It doesn't look good for our hero.
Take Another Look thuds out of "Strap Me In" before bright guitars let us know that everything is going to be okay. I mean, someone might have died, but, if so, they've gone to a happier place. Montreal, perhaps. In the summer. You can totally eat cotton candy or poutine to this song. It's your call.
We're still in Montreal. We're with someone we care about. We have healthcare. But, oh ,we'll have to return to our regular horror show Soon, so we best enjoy this chill moment for as long as we can.
This Could Be Love is that point in a video game when you're not quite at the final boss, but you're close enough that you're getting spammed by lesser villains and the music is getting more intense, and your health bar keeps getting lower no matter how many pills, turnips, cheeseburgers, or wrenches you eat. What if you don't even make it to the boss. Oh god, you don't want to have to go through this level again.
Victim Of Love returns us to the world of hand-clapping percussion. The lyrics seem almost taunting. They talk about a woman who done you wrong, but it almost sounds sarcastic, like, get over yourself. Yea, she broke your heart. Why did you give her your heart? She told you she didn't want it. This is totally your fault.
Closing out the album and the discography is one of my all-time favorite The Cars' songs, Drive. It's a song about questions. Evaluate yourself. What will happen if you break up with that special someone? Will it be worth it? I mean, you don't have a driver's license. Who's gonna drive you home tonight?