The Cars, “Sad Song” from Move Like This (2011): Something Else! sneak peek

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You expected the Cars, reformed without the late bass-playing vocalist Benjamin Orr, to come out with a sad song. Not a track called “Sad Song” that sounds anything but.

In fact, the lead single from the forthcoming Move Like This, the Cars’ first studio album in 24 years, boasts all the crunchy nerve of their best hit-making sides. That starts with this spiked-up Elliot Easton guitar riff straight out of “Best Friend’s Girl.” Next comes the zippy metronomic David Robinson rhythms that once drove “Since You’re Gone” right into my earhole, and then a swooping Heartbreak City-era wash from keyboard player Greg Hawkes. Lead singer Ric Ocasek, sounding not much worse for the wear, enters with the same detached cool that made “You Might Think” a staple on MTV back in the day.

Sure, as Hawkes continues orchestrating this propulsive wall of new-wave scronks, there’s an undercurrent of loss. But it’s hard-eyed, very modern: “Too many heartaches, waiting to strike,” Ocasek blurts out, in a pleasing hiccup. “Too many clowns, saying everything’s all right.” That determined tough-mindedness, as the chorus (it’s just a sad song and it won’t take long) billows up, is something that I just wasn’t expecting.

Ocasek and Co. haven’t just gotten back together, and haven’t just come to terms with everything that happened before. The Cars have definitively reclaimed their own sound from subsequent acts like the Bravery and, along the way, found a path to beginning again.

Sure, “Sad Song” could’ve used Orr’s feathered background vocals as a nest for that leaping chorus. It remains, however, an utterly satisfying return. The Cars are roaring back not as a 1980s curio, but instead as a third-act rock band with something new to say.

The Cars’ seventh studio release, ‘Move Like This,’ is scheduled to be released on May 10, 2011, by the Concord Music Group. Orr wasn’t replaced; instead, the bass portions were reportedly either programmed or performed by Hawkes and producer Jacknife Lee, who’s helmed R.E.M.’s ‘Accelerate’ and ‘Collapse into Now.’

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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