Heartbeat City

The Cars

Elektra Records, 1984


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If you had never heard of Ric Ocasek and The Cars prior to 1984, Heartbeat City and the videos from this album opened your eyes really quick.

The Boston band was quickly recognized by a wider base of fans (thanks in no small part to MTV) for their pop sensibility and catchy songs. Even fourteen years later, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Heartbeat City remains an enjoyable, but dated album.

Ocasek leads the band through ten solid numbers, ranging from the solid rockers ("You Might Think, "Magic") to the introspective ballads ("Why Can't I Have You", "Drive" - featuring vocals from Benjamin Orr), all the while keeping their same level of balance on all the tracks. The shift in styles is almost perfect, even occasionally allowing one track to begin seeping onto another as the latter track ends (e.g.: "Magic" kicking off just as "Looking For Love" ends).

Listening to this album again, the one thing about The Cars that sounds dated on Heartbeat City is the use of (oh, my God) electronic drums. While this was all the rage in the '80s, nothing - I repeat, nothing - takes the place of the real thing when it comes to the skins.

Surprisingly, many of the hits still sound as good today as they did back then. "You Might Think" will always be a killer track (and is one that I wish someone I know would take a close listen to - might explain some things), while "Magic" is an enjoyable little ditty (even if you don't see the Christ-like images of Ocasek walking on water without the TV in front of you). I never was a fan of "Drive," though I can appreciate it without it being hammered into my head all the time (peaking at number 3, it was the highest charting single for The Cars). Two other minor singles, "Hello Again" and "Why Can't I Be You," are still fresh.

The non-single tracks sometimes show why they weren't selected - for example, I just can't get into "I Refuse" or the title track. Other songs, like "Looking For Love," could have been contenders for singles, and one wonders why they never made the cut.

You can criticize the '80s for many things, but Heartbeat City isn't one of them. If there's any one Cars album to own, this probably is the one.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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.