The Cars

Elektra Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


I’ve often wondered why The Cars needed two lead singers in Ric Ocasek and the late Benjamin Orr, especially since their voices are practically identical.

Live performances and music television being what they are, maybe the band felt as though it needed an attractive front man, namely Orr, to appeal to the female fans. And then it could have Ric be the more interesting face for most of the music videos.  Whatever the reason, the one-two punch worked; all the elements added up to one great band, a band that, along with Van Halen, helped put the fun back into rock and roll in the late '70s.

As far as the albums go, you can forget about the best-selling Heartbeat City and their critically acclaimed self-titled debut for the time being, because the very best the band has had to offer is their sophomore release, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Candy-O. This is exactly what 1979 was meant to sound like. Slick, slinky and ever so sleazy, Candy-O is the perfect soundtrack for life in the big city. The best single by The Cars to date, “Let’s Go,” starts off things on the strongest possible note and then the great songs just keep right on coming.

Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, Candy-O is where The Cars begin to make judicious use of the synthesizer, much to the dismay of rock purists everywhere. Frankly, the synthesizer is my favorite instrument and it is what makes The Cars’ sound so unique and distinctive. Having said that, I do feel as though the synth was overused on Heartbeat City. On Candy-O, it was wisely handled in supplying flourishes to otherwise mundane material; it gives the album an almost claustrophobic feel - but in a good way - especially on dense tracks like “Shoo Bee Doo” and “Dangerous Type.” Even on a simple ballad like “It’s All I Can Do,” the melody line is played entirely on keyboard.

As is typical with most releases from the '70s, the first half of Candy-O is better than the second. The middle portion is my personal favorite, however. Though it never quite made it to the all-important Hot 100, “Double Life” ranks right up there with “Let’s Go,” and “Candy-O” is a title track to end all title tracks (though I wish it had been longer). Then there is “Night Spots,” which is the one song that puts the entire Candy-O album on a whole new level, deeming it a classic worth savoring. I’m not going to give it away though, you’ve got to hear it for yourself. Hint:  It tastes as good as Ben Orr’s lollipop.

After such suspenseful fare, “You Can’t Hold On Too Long” comes as a disappointment because it is disruptive to the tight and intense feel of the rest of the album. The same holds true for “Lust For Kicks,” a twisted nursery-rhyme kind of thing that is more nauseating than interesting.

The last two cuts, “Got A Lot On My Head” and “Dangerous Type” restore a semblance of order to the proceedings, even if they are both songs that The Cars could do in their sleep…with a beautiful model lying beside them, of course.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 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.