The Cars – Move Like This
This is a public service announcement: Despite what your calendars may tell you, it is actually 1984. Ronald Reagan is President, Cheers is the funniest show on TV, and Michael Jackson is the coolest person alive and always will be.
Ok, not really. But if the Cars want to pretend it’s the 1980s, who are we to judge them. Move Like This is the Boston band’s first album in 24 years, and it features everything that made them so great back in their heyday; catchy choruses, wicked keyboard riffs, and surprisingly skilled guitar solos
The album’s similarity to classic Cars is almost eerie. Each song sounds like a different era of the band’s early existence. Opening track “Blue Tip” brings back the too-cool-for-school new wave detachment of the band’s first two albums, while “Sad Song” features the type of radio-ready chorus and instantly memorable keyboards that made 1984’s Heartbeat City so ubiquitous upon its initial release.
The Cars were operating one memebr short on this record, due to the death of bassist Ben Orr in 2000. For the most part, this does not hinder the quality of the record, but there are moments when his vocals are sorely missed. While frontman Ric Ocasek’s vocals are strong, there are some numbers when Orr would have done a better job (Ocasek himself has admitted this in recent interviews).
The best example of this is on their track “Soon,” a synth-heavy ballad which bares a strong similarity to their biggest hit, 1984’s “Drive.” Orr sang lead on that song, and he would’ve definitely been a better option. Still, it doesn’t prevent “Soon” from being a convincing song, and it doesn’t stop Move Like This from being a strong, cohesive album.
There are very few songs on here that deviate from the standard Cars formula. The only one that experiments even a little bit is “Drag On Forever,” which is a bluesy number that almost entirely abandons the band’s new wave sound. It was as if the Cars wanted to have one song where they tried something different on their new album, while sticking to what works on every other number. Their experiment with blues is far from a complete failure, but it is considerably out of character and not quite as fun as the other tunes which feature the Cars sound everyone is used to.
The Cars have been a historically underrated band, and their influence on modern music is all-too-often ignored. When people talk about the artists who influenced, say, the Strokes, everyone is quick to jump on Lou Reed and Tom Verlaine, but none of their catchy, energetic rock would exist without the influence of Ric Ocasek and his considerable pop sensibilities.
Hopefully, the release of Move Like This will lead to the Cars getting more credit for their considerable influence on modern music. It’s an incredibly strong album that fits comfortably in with the rest of their catalog, and reminds us just what a bunch of talented songwriters they are.