Wednesday, June 6, 2018

An American Queen ?




On June 6, 1978 The Cars released their debut album.Thanks to a collection of songs that would make an enviable greatest hits compilation for any new wave band of that era, The Cars would sell millions of copies and spend 139 weeks on the charts.


These days I can't hear side two's one-two punch of "You're All I've Got Tonight/Bye Bye Love"" without remembering the Saturday night dances at my boarding school. What the hell was I doing out there on the dance floor? A tall, skinny teenager with a shaggy haircut and a big nose had no business trying to bust some moves. I still cringe just thinking about it.  ( Bye bye love indeed)

It would have been so much better had I been a tall, skinny teen of mystery who stayed in my room on Saturday nights doing push ups and studying.


Kit Rachlis wrote this review for Rolling Stone:

The first sound you hear on "Just What I Needed," the single from the Cars' debut album, is the repeated thump of bass notes against the short, metallic slash of guitar. It's a magnificent noise: loud, elemental and relentless. But the Cars -- the best band to come out of Boston since J. Geils -- aren't interested in simply travelling the interstates of rock and roll. They'll go there for the rush, but they prefer the stop-and-go quirks of two lanes. Before "Just What I Needed" is over, guitarist Elliot Easton has burned rubber making a U-turn with his solo, and Greg Hawkes' synthesizer has double-clutched the melody. Leader Ric Ocasek once sang that he lived on "emotion and comic relief," and it's in this tension of opposites that he and his group find relief (comic or otherwise) between the desire for frontal assault and the preference for oblique strategies. This is the organizing principle behind not only the single but the entire LP, which is almost evenly divided between pop songs and pretentious attempts at art.


The pop songs are wonderful. (Besides "Just What I Needed," they include "My Best Friend's Girl" and "You're All I've Got Tonight.") Easy and eccentric at the same time, all are potential hits. The melodies whoosh out as if on casters, custom-built for the interlocked but constantly shifting blocks of rhythm, while Ocasek's lyrics explode in telegraphic bursts of images and attacks ("You always knew to wear it well/You look so fancy I can tell"). Neither Ocasek nor bassist Ben Orr have striking voices, but by playing off the former's distant, near-mechanical phrasing against the latter's sweet-and-low delivery, the band achieves real emotional flexibility.



As long as the Cars' avant-garde instincts are servicing their rock and  roll impulses, the songs bristle and -- in their harsher, more angular moments ("Bye Bye Love," "Don't Cha Stop") -- bray. The album comes apart only when it becomes arty and falls prey to producer Roy Thomas Baker's lacquered sound and the group's own penchant for electronic effects. "I'm in Touch with Your World" and "Moving in Stereo" are the kind of songs that certify psychedelia's bad name. But these are the mistakes of a band that wants it both ways -- and who can blame rock and  rollers for that?



From Robert Christgau writing for the Village Voice :

Ocasek writes catchy, hardheaded-to-coldhearted songs eased by wryly rhaphsodic touches, the playing is tight and tough, and it all sounds wonderful on the radio. But though on a cut-by-cut basis Roy Thomas Baker's production adds as much as it distracts, here's hoping the records get rawer. That accentuated detachment may feel like a Roxy Music move in the first flush of studio infatuation, but schlock it up a little and this band really could turn into an American Queen.




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