Review #353: The Cars, The Cars

Karla Clifton
2 min readFeb 20, 2023

#353: The Cars, The Cars

“New wave” was named for the Talking Heads, but to me me, the Cars are the new waviest new wave band there is.

When the Cars released their debut, they were hit machines. Virtually every song on this album got radio play, even the non-singles. No matter your age, you’ve probably heard one of these songs. “Just What I Needed” was definitely in at least one car ad. (Fun fact, the beginning of “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne has the same guitar opener.) The sarcastic “Good Times Roll” and plaintive “My Best Friend’s Girl” were also both everywhere, and weirdo sex song “Moving In Stereo” was in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Like I said, everywhere.

There were two lead singers, but only one lead songwriter: Ric Ocasek, who died in 2019. Ocasek wrote short, concise songs that feel obvious, but are singular and unique. Keyboardist Greg Hawkes said it best: Ocasek had “a knack for taking a common phrase like ‘You’re All I’ve Got Tonight’ and making a great song out of it.”

That said, the Cars branch out, do more than just write catchy tunes. “I’m In Touch With Your World” is full of random sound effects, and the exceptionally weird “All Mixed Up” has a saxophone solo, which is the least new wave thing I’ve ever heard. Then on “Bye Bye Love,” Ocasek pulls out some surprisingly beautiful lyrics, for a song with candy coated guitars: It’s an orangy sky/ Always it’s some other guy/ It’s just a broken lullaby.

The Talking Heads may be the “superior” new wave group, but I can’t think of a single one of their records that has as much mass appeal as this one. New wave has come and gone, but this Cars record will always be in style.

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