The Cars are frequently overlooked in music history: their contribution is consistently dismissed in favour of sexier more populist acts like Blondie. However The Cars played a pivotal role in defining the new wave sound and with their eponymous debut they shaped the transition from synth driven post-punk to full blown 80s power pop.
The Cars went their separate ways in 1988 leaving the limp Door To Door as the band’s forgettable endnote. By 1997 Ric Ocasek was promising the media that The Cars would never reform and it seemed as if The Cars, the band who made such a profound impact upon their debut, were destined to leave the world scene with a pitiful whimper.In 2010 that all changed when the band reappeared together on Facebook with new material. Now in 2011 we have Move Like This; the fitting finale that Cars fans were denied in 1987.
The uncanny timing and the unpredictable angles that made The Cars debut so distinct have been smoothed away over the years but Ocasek’s knack for slick pop hooks has not diminished. Move Like This is the work of expert pop craftsmen as the album flies by with a myriad silky tones and satisfying melodies.
Lead single “Blue Tip” is the band’s sharpest offering; the synths burble, Ocasek’s delivery is delicate and distinct carrying a wonderful underlying tension while the spoken word samples and backing harmonies entwine gorgeously.
The Cars remain defiantly rooted in the late 70s and this is a brazen attempt at recapturing their classic new wave sound. The reference points are Devo and The Talking Heads. The Cars aren’t as awkward or daring as either of those art rock revolutionaries but what they lack in creativity they compensate for with accessibility and mainstream sheen.
They have the deliciously knowing delivery of their 70s peers but they translate that witty intellectual approach into a sound that’s universal and comfortable with a string of slick could be singles (“Keep On Knocking”, “It’s Only”, “Too Late”, “Sad Song”).
The Cars biggest, and only, progression comes in the form of the ballad “Soon”. The track is sublimely judged and beautifully textured, showing a flair for sincerity that The Cars often lacked at their commercial height. It’s not a stand out track by any means, but it shows how much The Cars have matured, and it’s the kind of track than any of today’s pop starlets would bite their hands off to have written for them.
Ultimately, Move Like This is a slick and polished blast from a past. A reminder of exactly what made The Cars great with tight guitar work and even tighter hooks being delivered with ironic flair. There is nothing new or breath taking on display here, instead we’re treated to a satisfying slice of new wave pop, but sometimes that’s all you need.
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