Heartbeat City

The Cars

Elektra Records, 1984


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Influencing bands like Collective Soul, The Cars were one of those rare MTV-era groups that were able to bridge the gap between rock ‘n roll and New Wave.

Part of the formula was in how they marketed themselves. You can’t help but wonder how successful they would have been without those provocative album covers, which featured fast cars and even faster women. And what about those groundbreaking music videos?  The pointless single “You Might Think” would have been forgotten altogether had it not been for its eye-popping animated video.

However they got there, The Cars got there in a hurry and, in the process, joined the likes of Aerosmith in keeping Boston on the map for yet another decade. After four strong albums, they unleashed a monster onto the world in the form of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Heartbeat City.  I remember back then having to decide between that album or Sheena Easton’s A Private Heaven and looking back, choosing this one was by far the better decision.

Co-produced by the ubiquitous Robert John “Mutt” Lange, Heartbeat City yielded an impressive five singles - half the album. The other half was just as good though, from the title track being immortalized in a Live Aid performance to “Looking For Love,” which would later be revamped and re-titled as “Munich Girls” on Falco’s hit album from 1986.

As for the multitude of singles to be found on Heartbeat City, “Hello Again” and “Drive” are the best of the lot. With its ever-present synths, “Hello Again” is the perfect upbeat and emphatic opener, while “Drive” is one of the rare Cars ballads that is deserving of its hit status. Who could forget the odd juxtaposition of “Drive” and the grim Live Aid promotional video that featured starving and dying Ethiopians? I get chills just thinking about hearing the line, “You can’t go on thinking nothing’s wrong.”  Maybe they should have called the album Heartbreak City.

Elsewhere of note on this impressive effort is the 1984 summer theme song “Magic” and another moody slow number, “Why Can’t I Have You.” Also, there is “It’s Not The Night,” which could have also been a hit song had it not been for the similar-sounding “I’m Not The One” from the previous album Shake It Up

Both “Stranger Eyes” and “I Refuse” are good filler songs, though they tend to bring the album down a notch in substance. After all, it is consistency that holds the individual songs together on any given album. As I always like to say, if the songs don’t flow, the quality won’t show. Fortunately, the quality shows often on Heartbeat City.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+



© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.