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Review of "Move Like This" -A 2011 Album by The Cars
It's impossible to discuss the Cars' return to the music scene without also mentioning their twenty-four year delay between albums. That is, assuming you're not counting the Ocasek-less, Todd Rundgren-led quasi-reunion of The New Cars, who toured in 2005 and issued It's Alive in 2006, then were largely forgotten. Although the Rundgren-Cars combination might have seemed interesting to some on paper, the fact is that The Cars without Ric Ocasek is a largely pointless affair. So it's probably a good thing that, for the most part, The New Cars have scarcely been mentioned since their 2007 disappearance, like a fleeting dream in the wee morning hours. But it could be argued that, without that misguided reunion attempt of five years ago, this current, much more credible reunion might not have taken place.
Move Like This is so classically Cars that it's almost obvious how pained leader Ric Ocasek must have been at the thought of The New Cars being the last word on the group he founded. What's amazing, or perhaps just expected, is that under Ocasek's leadership the band is able to pick up exactly where they left off. The album feels like it could easily have been issued in 1988 or 1989—a quick follow-up and improvement upon their 1987 effort, Door to Door. Though that album has received its share of negative criticism, one can attribute much of that to the mega-success of its predecessor, Heartbeat City.
That 1984 smash spawned nearly an entire album full of hits that, much like the majority of the band's first album, remain in rotation on the radio and in television commercials. After a string of less-than-stellar albums consisting of a handful of singles and a handful of filler, the once-undisputed uber-producer Robert “Mutt” Lange (Def Leppard, et. al.) took the controls and helped streamline the band's rock-infused new-wave sound into what would become the style of mainstream pop music for the rest of the decade. So it was essentially inevitable that any follow-up to Heartbeat City would be classified a disappointment. With Door to Door, Ocasek himself was producing, for the first time in the group's history. But his back-to-basics approach, despite occasional nods to Lange's heavily programmed style, must have been a let-down to the millions of fans waiting for another album full of shiny, radio-ready singles.
Now, after a twenty-four year break, the pressure is off to match the stylistic and commercial success of Heartbeat City, or even to improve on Door to Door. The simple fact that they have decided to exist again without missing a step is enough to satisfy throngs of fans the world over. Helping matters tremendously is the band's refusal to update their sound or their lyrical content. The wording is characteristically oblique, and the Ocasek vocals are unmistakable, although it is easy to pinpoint the songs on which the late bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr might have sung lead. There are no mentions of modern technology, a trap that so many other artists of The Cars' age and ilk fall victim to. Ocasek never once mentions iPhones, Xboxes, or Playstations. This all likely owes to Ocasek's mostly steady stream of solo output since The Cars' disbandment. He has never been out of writing practice; he has only been missing his bandmates. Move Like This proves that the combination of Ocasek with Greg Hawkes, Elliot Easton, and David Robinson is a special bond that just cannot be matched by any measure of studio sidemen.
The lack of the aformentioned Benjamin Orr is noticed, of course. But with a collection of songs that suits the band so perfectly, one has to wonder if Orr wasn't involved in some kind of ethereal way. Indeed, the album's liner notes hint at that possibility—one that any Cars fan can verify on first listen: “Ben, your spirit was with us on this one.” Here's hoping Orr's spirit will join Ocasek, Hawkes, Easton, and Robinson for many albums to come. Long live The Cars.