Music

The Cars are back on the road

The band’s first album since the 1980s ain’t half bad

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After a more than two-decade hiatus, The Cars are back. They sound good, and they like their sunglasses.
Annie Zaleski

After The Cars split in 1988, it seemed unlikely the pioneering synth-rock group would ever reunite. The dissolution was reportedly acrimonious, and bassist Ben Orr, the lead vocalist on such hits as “Just What I Needed” and “Drive,” died from pancreatic cancer in 2000. But last year, lead singer Ric Ocasek decided the surviving Cars—guitarist, Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson—could be the ideal backing band for a bunch of songs he’d written. Welcome to Move Like This, the first Cars album since 1987.

The Details

The Cars
Move Like This
three and a half stars

Surprisingly modern, the collection is far more vibrant than it has any right to be. While Jacknife Lee deserves partial credit—he produced (and played bass on) several songs—the songwriting is what keeps Move from sounding like an ’80s rehash. Ocasek’s grizzled-old-man monotone is paranoid and snotty, a perfect match for retrofitted electric-guitar jags (“Keep on Knocking”), jittery power-pop (“Free”) and majestic synth-pop (“Too Late”). Highlight “Sad Song” is even better: Although the hand-claps and choppy intro nod to The Cars’ early days, the tune—with its wall of keyboards, airtight arrangement and vocal inflections—is a dead ringer for The Killers.

Only Move’s slower songs, “Soon” and “Take Another Look,” are weak spots, their sluggish tempos and schmaltzy synths killing the album’s momentum. Still, Move is the rare reunion record that extends a band’s legacy. It also suggests that the rest of The Cars’ catalog might deserve a critical reappraisal.

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