Monday, April 25, 2011

30 Songs, 30 Days (2009 Edition), Day Sixteen: You Might Think by The Cars

Ahhhhh, Rik Ocasek....the man that convinced us back in the 80's that looks don't matter. After all, you're arguably one of the butt-ugliest men on the planet and you married a supermodel....

This is, of course, the lead single from Heartbeat City, the album that briefly made this group from Columbus, Ohio into mainstream Gods. I think a lot of their success had to do with the synergy of a series of highly inventive videos directed by unusual directors (one was even directed by Andy-freakin'-Wharhol!) and the ascendence of MTV as a taste maker. Hell, take a look at the video for this song....
Yeah, it looks...artificial looking at it now from the lens of the Oughts...but in 1984 that was state of the art video state of the art that it won 'Video of the Year' in that year's MTV Video Awards.

As for the song may very well be The Cars' most commercial piece of work, stripped mostly clean of Ocasek's vocal quirkiness and propelled by a not-quite-toy piano rift that's got a definite earworm quality to it. It's also a very strong showcase for how Ocasek, Benjamin Orr and Elliot Easton were almost a perfect package for power pop strength--I literally can't think of one of these men achieving much success without the other

....and later efforts have proved my hypothesis. For, while both Easton and Ocasek have created great solo albums (Easton's effort Change No Change produced a song that floors me to this day, "(Wearing Down) Like A Wheel"), neither has had the success apart they have had together. And we will never, ever speak about that Frankenstein-like aberration that was The New Cars.

No, really. Never. I'm doing us all a favor.  That band was so bad I'm awful leery of the upcoming Cars reunion....

Luckily, the influence of The Cars lives on in one of my all-time favorite bands. It's a not-very-well-kept secret that Fountains of Wayne's biggest hit, "Stacey's Mom," is a painstaking reconstruction of The Cars' formula for power pop heaven. And every once in a while, one of the members shows up out of nowhere, contributing their talents and, presumably, their blessings to other power pop and rock acts like Black 47 and The Click Five. As long as the band members continue to operate like that, power pop will continue to live on in our minds and our hearts.

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