The Cars - "Move Like This" CD Review (Hear Music) ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Cars - "Move Like This" CD Review (Hear Music)

The Cars - 'Move Like This' CD Review (Hear Music)I remember liking The Cars in junior high as they were a welcome change from bands like Supertramp and Journey who seemed to dominate rock radio at the time. My interest in the band waned as the band seemed to lose their edge with each subsequent album as they went after a more mainstream sound. Ric Ocasek produced some brilliant punk albums in the early 80’s (Suicide’s second disc and Bad Brains’ Rock For Light) so I kept thinking there was something about the band that I was missing but, by the time I got to college, throwaway pop (and the accompanying “cheeseball” videos) like “You Might Think” finally made me write off the band completely. My opinion of the band has changed though as with their new disc, Move Like This, as I can finally hear the link to the jagged synth-punk of bands like Suicide.

Move Like This is The Cars’ first new disc since 1987’s Door To Door. After “The New Cars” debacle, it is probably important to start by noting that all surviving members have returned with uber-producer Jackknife Lee stepping in for Ben Orr (who passed away in 2000). Across this disc, The Cars don’t stray far from their roots (which is both a good and bad thing) as the material ranges from the edgy new wave sound of the band’s early days to the commercial pop of their late 80’s records. There are small snippets of riffs and musical structures that sound like they were lifted straight out of the band’s back catalogue but the overall tone seems darker and more moodily introspective than I ever remember The Cars sounding.

The disc starts out strong with "Blue Tip" (the disc's second single) which has the quirky rhythms, bleeping keyboards and taut guitar lines of the early Cars material. The disc's first single "Sad Songs" borrows ever so slightly from "My Best Friend's Girl" but takes the music in a different direction so that the tune is nostalgic without being derivative. On a similar note, "Free" brings back memories of "Bye Bye Love" (from The Cars' first disc). Staying within the framework of The Cars' sound, "Keep on Knocking" is a harder-edged piece that is driven by Elliot Easton's crunchy power chords. The disc falls a bit short when it take an ill advised turn into the 80's-style new wave ballads: “Soon” is being compared to “Drive” but unfortunately falls short and "Take Another Look" is a "Top Gun soundtrack" style cheese ballad.

Some of Ocasek’s obtuse stream of conscious lyrics may not lend themselves to easy interpretation and/or sing-alongs but (he isn’t trying to be Bono) this is a case where the textures of the music hold more weight than the lyrics.

There are some nice guitar licks on some of the songs but the heavy use of a variety of keyboard / synthesizer sounds and crisp drumming are a predominate part of most of this disc. As tight as the drums sound, it is hard to believe that David Robinson said in a recent interview (with Consequence of Sound‘s Cap Blackard) that he hadn’t played since 1987.

In the weeks leading up to the album’s release, what’s life been like?

We’re getting ready to tour and I haven’t played drums since 1987. So what we’re doing is relearning everything and I’m practicing to relearn how to play, basically. Also, we are doing a lot of stuff electronically; we aren’t going to use a bass player, so we have to program either bass parts or keyboard parts to play on stage and that requires click tracks that I play along with and percussion tracks and stuff like that. So, it’s a lot of work.

There is no mistaking that this new disc is a Cars album through-and-through. While some of the songs worked for me and some didn’t, this disc proved that The Cars aren’t back for a “greatest hits tour” cash-in and their new music is very relevant within today’s musical landscape.

On a related note, it is worth making a point of picking up the “Best Buy” edition of this release for the three bonus tracks:
- “Rocket USA” (Demo): A blistering Suicide cover
- “Hits Me” (Demo): Much looser and rawer than the "studio" version; I actually like this version better
- "One By One" (Demo): Previously unreleased and in the same style as "Hits Me" (Demo)

The Cars