Takin’ a swipe at fun: The best of The Cars

So influential that they sound as inevitable as Bob Seger or whatever war horse you care to mention, The Cars have a claim to having invented the clever and remunerative moniker “New Wave,” and in their case, boy, was it remunerative. 1984’s Heartbeat City, for which they surrendered to Robert “Mutt” Lange, is certified four times platinum. So is 1978’s Candy-O. Their epochal debut stands at six. The original 1985 comp, a staple of every jukebox in America (Bob Seger, you’ve got company), shipped another six million. The Cars sold and kept selling. And keep selling. Their singles trajectory fascinated me too. You’d think “Good Times Roll,” “Let’s Go,” and “Just What I Needed” owned their respective year’s charts; it took “Shake It Up” to crack the top ten.

This list is an intersection of fiscal and aesthetic reality. Singer-songwriter Ric Ocasek wrote a couple of perfect songs, then spent the next decade refining and rewriting them. Over and over (Now there’s a Cars title). Elliot Easton was allowed to uglify those pristine, increasingly digitized structures — his solo in the unimpeachable comp-only hit “Tonight She Comes” is how I’d elaborate on a song’s main hook. Benjamin Orr, often confused for Ocasek, sang “Drive” and “Just What I Needed” and in a few of the early reviews is credited with “soul” — an amusing thought, for he often emoted as plaintively as any toaster. Like many drummers in the eighties, David Robinson, once of the Modern Lovers, surrendered to a drum machine and no one could tell the difference.

They never improved on “Just What I Needed,” an American pop distillation of Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain,” an ode to a band that never cracked the code.

1. Just What I Needed
2. Tonight She Comes
3. Dangerous Type
4.  Let’s Go
5. It’s All I Can Do
6. Bye Bye Love
7. You Might Think
8. Moving in Stereo
9. Touch and Go
10. Double Life
11. You Wear Those Eyes
12. I Refuse
13. You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
14. Panorama
15. Good Times Roll
16. Misfit Kid
17. True to You (Ocasek)
18. I’m Not the One
19. Running to You
20. Candy-O
21. Jimmy Jimmy (Ocasek)
22. My Best Friend’s Girl
23. Something to Grab For (Ocasek)
24. Doncha Stop
25. Since You’re Gone

5 thoughts on “Takin’ a swipe at fun: The best of The Cars

  1. I would replace some of the lessor known songs with Why Can’t I Have You, Orr’s solo Stay the Night, Ocasek’s solo Emotion in Motion, Strap Me In, Coming Up You. I would also take off Hello Again. I’ve just never liked that song.

  2. This list sucks and you obviously don’t know much about The Cars. Orr emoted as much as a toaster? Are you kidding me? Another worthless list article.

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