In honor of last week’s news that The Cars had been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (ten years since they first became eligible), I’ve decided to review the band’s most recent studio album: 2011’s Move Like This.
Move Like This is the band’s first album in nearly 25 years. A lot happened during that extended hiatus: Bassist and co-lead singer Benjamin Orr died of cancer in 2000, lead guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes linked up with Todd Rundgren to form “The New Cars,” and Ocasek released several solo albums while maintaining a successful production career. Move Like This sounds more like early Cars than the synth-heavy new wave stuff that they were popular for during the 80’s. Because Ocasek was always the sole songwriter in the band, Move Like This fits seamlessly into the Cars’ discography and sounds like an album they could have released in the 90’s as their obligatory “back-to-basics” album.
Moreover, this album follows the Cars’ formula to a tee. There are four really good songs on this album: the mesmerizingly infectious lead single “Blue Tip,” the tender “Too Late,” and the Ocasek trademark clap-a-long numbers “Sad Song” and “Free.” “Blue Tip,” in particular is a great song; it’s an instantly memorable toe-tapper that is better than anything on Door to Door. There are two decent album tracks (“Keep on Knocking” and “Take Another Look”). The rest is basically filler, although it’s perfectly enjoyable filler – another Ocasek trademark.
While Move Like This is a solid album and a worthy addition to the Cars’ discography, it does suffer from Orr’s absence. Ocasek admitted to Rolling Stone that “on half of the new songs, Ben would have done better than I did.” It isn’t faint praise, either. Orr may have sounded similar to Ocasek, but he did have slightly more range and emotion in his voice than Ocasek and provided a welcome counterweight to Ocasek’s too-cool-for-school delivery. “Too Late,” in particular, could have benefited from Orr’s soulful singing.
All in all, Move Like This is a solid comeback album from a groundbreaking band that most people thought had gone the way of other 80’s relics like Betamax and New Coke. With Move Like This, The Cars have proven that they still have some good music in them. This fine record is a far more fitting denouement than 1987’s disastrous Door to Door and, assuming this is the last time they’ll work together, they’ve ensured that they’ll go out on a high note. And hopefully, this album and tour made enough money for everyone so that Easton and Hawkes don’t have to re-form the New Cars.