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Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Cars: Move Like This


1) Blue Tip; 2) Too Late; 3) Keep On Knocking; 4) Soon; 5) Sad Song; 6) Free; 7) Drag On Forever; 8) Take Another Look; 9) It's Only; 10) Hits Me.

In the 1990s, Ocasek stated in interviews that The Cars would never ever run again, but, of course, that was just an artistic lie: all it took was the death of Ben Orr from cancer in 2000, and then a ridiculous experiment with Hawkes and Easton forming «The New Cars» (with no less than Todd Rundgren as a participating member!) for touring purposes, to get Ric to realize that (a) you only live once, (b) no matter what he does, he is still going to be remembered as the frontman for The Cars rather than a solo artist. Consequently, it is not amazing that The Cars eventually reunited; it is amazing that they had to wait more than twenty years to reunite. On the other hand, one should never underestimate the «been so long...» factor — with the band having passed into legend so long ago, the appearance of Move Like This, for many fans and critics alike, was akin to the second coming of Christ (or should we say, of Chrysler? no, not really funny).

While some reunion albums actually try to give you the impression that the artist is moving along with the times, Move Like This is not dicking around one iota — it is a straightforward attempt to recapture the vibe of The Cars, although, frankly speaking, the final result sounds more like Shake It Up, at least if you compare the respective roles of the guitar and the synth. Technically, it all works: Hawkes, Easton, and Ocasek still remember to choose the correct instrumental tones and pick the proper pop notes, while Jacknife Lee, an Irish musician who used to dabble in both punk rock and electronica, and is also substituting here for the deceased Orr on bass, assists the band in producing the album as if it were a time capsule. No wonder hardcore fans and critics were delighted — on the surface, it all sounds like a classic Cars album.

Beyond the surface, though, it's a little underwhelming: essentially, the record feels strangely purposeless. The opening single, ʽBlue Tipʼ, combines rough guitar riffage with technobleeps just like ʽGood Times Rollʼ, but the emotional atmosphere is different — instead of the old «confu­sed-lamenting» vibe, we get something more accusatory and angry (apparently, the song has a social message — "you believe in anything, they tell you how to think" etc.), but the message is not supported by the relatively weak pop hooks. There's nothing particularly wrong about the technobleeps, and I suppose that the fanfare-like riff of the chorus is kinda catchy, but the song on the whole is neither mindless fun nor an angry diatribe — something that's nice to listen to once or twice and then forget forever.

Unfortunately, the same feel applies to all the other nine tracks. It's The Cars-lite, pleasant and pointless; quite monotonous (I think about half of the songs share precisely the same mid-tempo beat) and without even a single stand-out number. Ah, if at least one of the album's two or three bal­lads had the magic of a ʽDriveʼ — but instead we get stuff like ʽTake Another Lookʼ, whose chorus is entirely predictable, no better or worse than any adult contemporary ballad ever written. And the uptempo stuff is just six or seven ways for Ocasek to tell us that he still can't get no satis­faction, but now he just resorts to minor variations on the same groove to get his point across, and this quickly becomes tedious.

Consequently, I can hardly stand it when people write mildly positive reviews of the album, saying «well, at least it's better than Door To Door, that's for sure». It is not frickin' better than Door To Door, because I'd at least take ʽFine Lineʼ and ʽGo Awayʼ over every single track on Move Like This — back then, The Cars were a struggling band caught in a web of internal con­tradictions, but the music still reflected living, vibrant feelings. Move Like This, in comparison, gives the impression of an impeccably dressed corpse, with everything intact and polished ex­cept for, you know, soul. And it would be an insult to The Cars to insist that they had never been much more than a plastic, glossy, superficially catchy pop band. Personally, I'd rather prefer to insult this one album than their entire career — by giving it a thumbs down and stating that this stillborn reunion should never have happened. (And, just for the record, not all reunions by legen­dary New Wave heroes were stillborn — Blondie's No Exit, for instance, sounds a dozen times more alive in comparison).

1 comment:

  1. This would be a fair album musically (if basically soulless...) if it weren't for the fact that it's mastered so loud. Those beeps on "Blue Tip," for example, cut right through your eardrums. If I turn it up to crane my ears toward that lower end... ouch!