The Cars- The Cars (1978): 2 March 2020

The Cars – The Cars (1978)

Welcome back to YDCS! We’re back to regular programming this week after the special last week, and we have a classic album on tap this week too, the self-titled debut from The Cars! The Cars were on the edge of the New Wave movement that was beginning to form and would dominate the rock scene through the 1980s. The Cars was an indulgent album that strayed from a typical blues rock sound, incorporating newer instruments like synthesizers and more pop elements to create a radio-friendly rock sound. This approach ended up paying off for the band as The Cars would go on to chart for over 130 weeks.

The Cars would have a few smaller hits through the early 80s until the release of their third album Heartbreak City in 1984, featuring a distinctly pop-ier sound. The Cars was a strong debut album that produced three singles, two of which would go on to be legacy hits for the band, “Good Times Roll” and “Just What I Needed.”  After listening to this album a few times, I ended up liking it quite a lot. It has a very unique sound with strong reliance on synthesizers and very tight songs, a stark contrast to more freewheeling albums by acts like Ted Nugent or Black Sabbath. New Wave just has a very ‘buttoned-up’ feeling to it for me. It’s polished up nicely and packaged so that anyone can enjoy it in a radio-friendly format. In some respects, that’s exactly what you want, accessibility to a wider audience. I just wish that that accessibility didn’t come at the cost of straying from rock roots. The Cars did about the best that anyone could to create an album that appeals to a large audience and used up and coming instruments and pop music techniques but set it to a harder sound than I think most people were prepared for. This set the stage for the takeover of rock music in the 1980s. True trailblazers. I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Good Times Roll: We start off with a huge rock song. “Good Times Roll” is such an easily recognizable song and it’s classic Cars to boot. I think that the song gets most of its appeal from the huge chorus featuring multipart harmony. It contrasts nicely from the rest of the song, which, while it’s classic rock is a relatively softer sound. Dad’s Rating 8/10

My Best Friend’s Girl: “My Best Friend’s Girl” was released as one of the singles for the album but doesn’t get as much attention as the other two, “Good Times Roll” and “Just What I Needed.” For me, this is just a fun rock song. It’s identifiable as the Cars and pushes the New Wave sound just a bit with the tightness of the song. Dad’s Rating 5/10

Just What I Needed: “Just What I Needed” is such a cool song and probably The Cars’ biggest hit. I’ve always loved the guitar on this track, particularly though the chorus where it transitions to power chords. It’s a great contrast to the rest of the song where it’s mostly a picking part. The synthesizer is classic New Wave and helps set this song as a hallmark for the genre. Dad’s Rating 9/10

I’m in Touch with Your World: “I’m in Touch” is a unique song in that it doesn’t sound like anything else on the album. The stair stepping guitar part combined with the weird instrumentation is really cool. I’m pretty sure that most of the unusual sounds were created by a synthesizer for this track. There’s everything from scratches to whistles and breaking glass. This is a really cool track and definitely worth checking out just for the novelty. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Don’t Cha Stop: This is a proper rock song. The Cars did away with the synthesizers (for the most part) and made a classic rock song in “Don’t Cha Stop.” This is a song that should be on every driving playlist and mixtape. I can imagine myself driving on the interstate across Texas with this song turned up. As far as rock songs go it’s not particularly impressive, but it has a great feeling, and that feeling carries it far.  Dad’s Rating 6/10

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight: I liked this track well enough. By this point in the album, I’ve started to realize that a lot of songs by The Cars don’t show a high degree of diversity, at least not on this album. “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” sounds an awful lot like some of the later songs on the album that push into forgettable territory. “You’re All I’ve Got” has a bit more of a hard rock sound than others on this record, and that helps save it from obscurity. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Bye Bye Love: There’s a lot to like about “Bye Bye Love” from a musicality standpoint. Looking at each instrument alone, the band shows a high degree of musicianship on this track. The bass is interesting and was the first thing to catch my ear, the synthesizer is different than on other tracks. A lot of times it’s used more for baking, but here it gets a neat riff and solo all to its own. The vocal harmony is well executed, exactly as one would expect from a Cars track. Good song! Dad’s Rating 6 /10

Moving in Stereo: “Moving in Stereo” is an odd song for me in that after listening to the album a few times, it’s one of the songs that didn’t make a strong enough impression to stick in my head, but it’s also got a really unique, synth-driven sound that isn’t matched by any other song on the album. It’s not quite rock and it’s not quite pop. It’s a solidly strange New Wave song, and it comes across as odd on an album where the genre is so well incorporated into traditional rock sounds. Dad’s Rating 4/10

All Mixed Up: “All Mixed Up” is a solid rock song but easily forgettable. I can’t complain with it, but it doesn’t stand apart from other songs. Dad’s Rating 5/10

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