The great seventies/eighties pop band The Cars attempted a semi-reformation once, but that lineup (despite the presence of Todd Rundgren!) didn’t take. Really, only the original Cars can do the job.
Sadly, by the time The Cars reformed to record their (to date) latest album, Move Like This, their bassist and co-lead singer, Benjamin Orr, had died of cancer – far too young, in 2000. But the band, I think wisely, didn’t replace him; Ric Ocasek handles all lead vocals on the album, and keyboardist Greg Hawkes plays bass. I won’t say that Orr’s playing (which was distinguished by its precision and a superb tone – listen to “Magic” to hear that tone at its most glorious) and singing aren’t missed on the new album, but I will say that the remaining quartet does an amazing job.
Learning All Over Again
Underrated drummer David Robinson hadn’t played for more than two decades, but you wouldn’t know that from his performance on Move Like This. Aficionados always appreciated the colour he brought to the band’s sound, and he’s in fine form on this album. Ditto the other three guys. Their achievement is to have made a solid, recognizable Cars album that sounds neither late-seventies nor early-twenty-first century. Any of these songs could have appeared on any other Cars album. And the sounds of the guys’ instruments are near as dammit to the sounds Roy Thomas Baker helped them find on their very first album back in 1978.
When We Miss Ben
Ben Orr’s voice was in some ways similar to main lead singer Ric Ocasek’s, but it was also the voice that unmistakably caressed such songs as one of the band’s biggest hits, the sublime “Drive.” So, as fine a job as Ocasek does on the lovely ballad “Soon,” I sometimes find myself trying to hear Ben’s voice instead of Ric’s. However, on the rockier and poppier numbers, and if you don’t listen too closely for the bass, you will – especially if you’re a fanatic like me – be delighted to hear this great old band doing what they do with skill and verve. If you missed this album when it came out a few years ago, please do check it out. And watch for another – we live in hope.