The Cars - The Cars
This album came out at a seminal and wonderful time in my life. A period of a few months spent in a foreign land with a mixed group of people from many countries was the backdrop. Between us, we had a handful of cassettes of which the debut album by the Cars was one. As a result, the album was played over and over again. It engrained itself into the psyche of those who were there. Its music became the soundtrack to a life and the songs became little vignettes which reflected our collective lives. As a result, this album and will always be associated with that time in my mind.
When I returned home, like everyone else who had been there, the first album I bought was this one. For over a year I could hardly get it off the turntable and even now, when I hear it, it takes me back to those days. This is an album of utterly irresistibly catchy pop songs. It carries with it some fantastic memories for me and, thankfully, contains some truly great tracks. As musical appreciation is a subjective art, and true appreciation is often triggered by association with a time or a place, there is no way I could give this other than the full five stars. Others who give it less will not have the strengths of the memories in their minds as I do it mine. That is just the way it is.
The Cars combined pop and new wave with what was for its time a unique keyboard led sound, with the occasional sax input as well. Ric Ocasek was the mastermind behind this and his gaunt and relatively weird appearance only added to the impression that this was, for its time, something quite different. Yet the combination of musical styles worked. The infectious nature of the songs just demands that you roll it back to the start and play it again, time after time after time. At a time when the musical landscape was dominated by punk rock and disco, this was a breath of fresh air which appealed across the board to all who had an interest in music. It is testament to its success that it is still a staple on oldies radio in North America.
So catchy were the songs that six of the tracks were issued as singles - that must surely be something of a record for the late 1970's. The three standout singles were "My Best Friends Girl", "Just What I Needed" and "You're All I've Got Tonight". Yet do not overlook the rest. "Bye Bye Love" could have been as big a hit as any, with its stuttering musical delivery of the chorus; "All Mixed Up" winds up to a looping guitar and keyboard driven hook line while I can still imagine hopping on tiptoe across a dance floor to the mesmerising hook of "Moving In Stereo". It has been said that so familiar and so successful were the songs on this album that it is almost as if it is a compilation of greatest hits in its own right. It is not hard to see why someone could make such a statement.
I never revisited the Cars after this album. Something just made me feel that this lone album of their in my collection was to stand testament to what it represented for me. In some way, I knew it would be impossible for the band to recreate this impact it had on me because the time and the place had passed. Anything that followed was bound to be inferior. However, when the deluxe, extended and remastered edition was released on CD I had to have it. The deluxe edition contains either demos or live versions of all the nine tracks on the original album, plus a few outtakes which never made it. In truth they add little to the original, but my vinyl copy had worn out so I had to replace it and the fuller version offered more than the original.
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