Friday, 17 July 2020

The Cars

The Cars (1978)

Good Times Roll/My Best Friend’s Girl/Just What I Needed/I’m In Touch With Your World/Don’t Cha Stop/You’re All I’ve Got Tonight/Bye Bye Love/Moving In Stereo/All Mixed Up

Back in 1978, although I liked the two hit singles from this album, the rest of it and The Cars as a group sort of passed me by as I remained engrossed with The Clash, The Jam, Elvis Costello and The Ramones among many others. For many, though, including lots of music writers, it is at the top of its new wave genre, rather like they all love Television’s Marquee Moon. I may have heard bits of it on the radio at the time, I can’t remember too well, but this is the first time I have given it proper attention. The group looked a bit like a geekier, studenty Ramones but without the genuine quirky menace. Like The Ramones, The Clash and Blondie, though, they released an eponymously-titled debut.

It only contained nine tracks, but they are all around the four minute mark. For me, this album sounds far more post punk than it does new wave, something I have rarely heard mentioned - all those synths and sombre-sounding tunes/vocals. Surely you can hear it?

Good Times Roll is a slow, grinding almost post punk-sounding number, with Ric Ocasek’s unique, also post punk style voice dominating. The song’s instrumentation merges T. Rex guitar riffage with sone distinctly electronica style keyboard breaks.

I seriously loved My Best Friend’s Girl when it came out, with its handclappy backing, jangly guitar and sort of early Joe Jackson ambience. It became a true classic of the new wave. I played it endlessly on the student union jukebox while playing pool and using my cue as an air guitar. It went hand-in-hand with the afore-mentioned Jackson, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Graham Parker and Nick Lowe as very much the sound of 1978-79 for me.


Just as impressive was the powerful, chunky Just What I Needed. I prefer the former single, but this one was good too, although it took too long to get to the chorus. I love the very 1978-79 guitar backing though.

I’m In Touch With Your World is a chugging post punker once again, like Talking Heads and Magazine getting together and asking Brian Eno along to twiddle some knobs. Once again, those spacey keyboard riffs are integral, along with the insistent, repetitive guitar riffs. 

Don’t Cha Stop is an upbeat new wave/punk number with a Bob Geldof meets Andy Partridge of XTC vocal and a bit of punky rolling drums in there at one point.

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight is another muscular, plodding number with impressive guitars and drums, but although perfectly acceptable, there is something about it that means it remains a bit ordinary, for me at least. Nothing gets me out of my seat, it has the feel of the sort of run-of-the-mill rock that punk was supposed to blow away. Sorry. It sounds like a cross between The Adverts (Gary Gilmore's Eyes) and The Glitter Band, drum-wise.

Bye Bye Love is a jangly, appealing, riffy song, probably the next best after the singles. Some of Bruce Springsteen’s Tracks box set unused songs from 1979 sounded like this, I’m thinking particularly of Cynthia.

Moving In Stereo was a sonorous, sombre new wave meets post punk grinder of a track. It reminds me of Television a bit. 

All Mixed Up is a synthesiser-driven industrial-sounding song that has a certain quirkiness to it, vaguely psychedelic. The saxophone at the end is very early Roxy Music.

So, there you go, an ok album I guess, certainly not a work of genius, and the two singles are still the stand-out tracks.

Candy O (1979)

Let's Go/Since I Held You/It's All I Can Do/Double Life/Shoo Be Doo/Candy O/Night Spots/You Can't Hold On Too Long/Lust For Kicks/Got A Lot On My Head/Dangerous Type

Also enjoyable, though, (possibly more so) was this excellent follow up album from 1979, which, apart from having a wonderfully sexy cover was packed with fine, punchy and catchy organ and guitar-driven new wave material. 

It is all largely upbeat fare, with hints of The Ramones on the handclap, riffy Let's Go, Elvis Costello & The Attractions on Lust For Kicks and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers on Since I Held You in particular, along with some vague post-punkiness on Candy O and even a T. Rex Jeepster-esque riff on Dangerous Type, but never to the detriment of The Cars’ unique sound. It is definitely the match of the debut album, very much tapping in to the sound of 1979-80. 

It is one of those albums where, while nothing sticks out incredibly, you still can’t say that there’s a bad track on it. Not at all. Great album of its time.

Highlights :- Let's Go, Since I Held You, Candy O, Lust For Kicks, Double Life

The Cars were second only to The Ramones in looking weird and geeky, weren't they?


  1. Good times roll is the greatest. Moving in Stereo and My Best Friend's Girl are the other two great ones. There was actually more good ones on the next album Candy-O. And even more on Shake It Up. Usually their albums were about half and half. The good ones were really good though.

  2. I was only ever half into The Cars, so your knowledge of them will be better.

    By the way, do you Aphoristical's quizzes? I scored a miserable 8 out of 20 on this week's one and the same last week. Actually, I'm quite proud that I know fuck all about Ariana Grande! The lower the score the more credible, I think!

  3. I always try to to play those games but I always do something wrong near the beginning and f*** the whole thing up. I always know the answers but I don't know how to work the game that good. I always screw it up. And by time I figure out how to work the game the clock is running out. I would score really good if only I could figure it out.

  4. But I guess I wouldn't score very good if the quiz was about Ariana Grande. I agree with you the lower the score you got the better. LOL

  5. I wear my low score as a badge of pride!