Release Date: May 10, 2011
Record label: Hear Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Punk/New Wave, Power Pop, New Wave
There are moments when Move Like This, the first new album by the Cars in 24 years, sounds so much like a Record by the Cars that you find yourself laughing out loud. Take "Sad Song," on which the opening salvo — a terse guitar strum set against the machinelike thwack of snare drum and hand claps — is such a note-perfect evocation of the band's vintage attack that it almost plays like winking self-parody. Ronald Reagan was mired in the Iran-Contra scandal when Ric Ocasek and Co.
The Cars' disbandment wasn’t necessarily fractious but their afterlife sure was, with the band itching to reunite while their lead voice and face, Ric Ocasek, opted out. Bassist Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer in 2000, but that didn’t slow the desire for a reunion. Guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes took matters into their own hands in 2005, joining forces with Todd Rundgren and associates for the not-bad-at-all New Cars, and that seemed to be the end of the story until 2010, when all surviving members -- Ocasek, Easton, Hawkes, and drummer David Robinson -- headed into the studio with producer Jacknife Lee, who also pinch-hit on bass, to cut Move Like This, an album that defies all odds by sounding exactly like a classic Cars album.
Show of hands – who expected the Cars to make another record? This one was not on my radar screen at all. Why was I so excited when I saw it? It’s hard to say, but it can probably be chalked up to an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. I was just about 12-13 and just discovering a grown-up love of music when the Cars first broke, and while I was primarily obsessed with the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, and looked down my nose at most of what was on the radio circa 1979-81, The Cars managed to seep into my system with their irresistible hooks and crunchy guitars.
THE CARS pull into Sound Academy Friday (May 20). See listing. Rating: NNN Ric Ocasek is impressive for many reasons. Not only is he the ugliest guy ever to marry a supermodel, but through the years, while rebuilding his career as a top-calibre producer, he also commendably avoided lucrative offers to take his Cars on nostalgic cash-ins, waiting until the reunion made sense and the songs were in place to justify the outing.
If you’re looking to like Move Like This, the Cars’ first album in nearly a quarter century, the album offers enough to suit you. First of all, and this is the main thing, it sounds like the Cars. The Cars you love for their string of unforgettable early-to-mid 1980s hits, not the band that petered out in 1987 with the half-hearted Door to Door.
The Cars' last burst of glory came in 1985, when the song Drive was used at Live Aid to soundtrack a videomontage of famine victims. They split up a few years later, and leader Ric Ocasek said there was no chance his band – one of America's definitive new-wave outfits, whose brittle synthpop has influenced a good few 21st-century acts – would ever reunite. Inevitably, though, they have.
It’s hard to say that fans have waited a long time for a new Cars record. The simple fact is we’d all given up. Their reunion was filed under “hopeless pursuits” along with Talking Heads and Led Zeppelin. Some 24 years later, surprise, surprise! With the promise of an actual new Cars record on the horizon I didn’t know what to think.
Saying that Move Like This sounds like a pretty good Cars album might seem to be damning it with faint praise. That’s especially true since it’s the group’s first studio effort after sputtering off the road with 1987’s disappointing Door To Door. Despite the untimely 2000 death of founding vocalist/bassist Ben Orr (keyboardist Greg Hawkes now picks up the bass parts), time otherwise stands still on this 37 minute, 10 track comeback.