I could just save a lot of time by saying that Ric Ocasek is genius who can stand tall with the best songwriters in history. And I could also say that if you don’t know anything about the Cars, then you don’t know dick about pop music as a whole. But I’ll be civil today. I first heard this record in its entirety when I was fourteen years old. I was amazed because it was the first time that I heard an album that was catchy, jangly, crafty, punky, and twee all at once. I thought it was an atypical ’80s album and then I found out it was released in 1978. Judging from their sound, I also thought that the Cars were a British band for about two years before I found out they hailed from Boston. It just goes to prove that no matter how many times you listen to the self-titled debut album from the Cars, you will be surprised and bewildered every time you give it a spin on the ol’ turntable (or on a CD player, if you’re not a purist when it comes to old music). With nine songs that revolved around Ocasek’s genuine knack for being a pop architect (duh), Eliot Easton’s splintery guitar solos, Greg Hawkes’ bumpy synthesizer chops and some all around big-ass harmonies, The Cars spawned three top 40 singles as well as a number of weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
The catchiest song on the album by far would have to be the debut single “Just What I Needed” with it’s pop-minded 4/4 beat, chilly synth lines, and rocking melodies, it just sucks that a song this addicting saw The Cars giving into the time-honored faux pas of lending it’s chorus to a commercial for a major appliance chain. The opener “Good Times Roll” is a rather snazzy number beaconed by the hoarse guitar riffs, dripping synth squelches, and ever-memorable, yet throwaway verses like “Let them brush your rock and roll hair” all for the convenience of rhyming.
The Cars also displayed its pop sensibilities in various other ways without losing its edge with the spacey cartoonish spunk of “I’m In Touch With Your World,” the wily twist in “Don’t Cha Stop” and even boasts an arty pop gem in the form of “Bye Bye Love.” You can even get a slow dance out of “All Mixed Up.” Of course no matter how hard you try, it would be nearly impossible to forget the towering “ahhh’s” and the chiming treble with David Robinsons impending drum beats on “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.” The track “Moving in Stereo” actually moves in stereo from one speaker to the next. But if you don’t know this song off the top of your head, it will become crystal clear for earning a definitive moment in campy culture history as it set the mood for Judge Reinhold’s character jerking off on the toilet while fantasizing about a topless Phoebe Cates (what ever happened to her?) in Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
While releasing a few moderately successful albums before their disintegration in 1988 The Cars never put out a more outstanding effort than their first. Sadly, bassist/singer Benjamin Orr passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2000, but his skills will never be forgotten on an album where just about every song is still in regular rotation on most classic rock radio stations across the nation. Although released in 1978, The Cars was half of the link the oncoming decade, along with the self-titled debut from the B-52’s. These albums paved the way for’80s radio as well as for all the bands who had success during the salad days of MTV. Long live the Cars.
Similar Albums/Albums Influenced:
The Cars – Candy – O
The Rentals – Return of the Rentals
The Knack – Get The Knack