Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Cars - Shake It Up (LP, 1981)

After the enjoyable but less palatable detour of Panorama, we find Ocasek and the boys returning to form, while not losing any of the edge of their last two records. Nevermind the terrible cover.

They get right into it, starting strong with two radio-ready singles, "Since You're Gone" and the title track. "Since You're Gone" is morose but catchy, a great song to set the tone of the record. "Shake It Up" is, as we all know, a timeless dance song that will be played at ironic 80's parties till the end of time. It should be, it's a great pop song.

If you're like me, you can't help but relate the third track, "I'm Not the One," to the scene in Billy Madison where he's opening his valentines. It's a sincere song, but I can no longer take it seriously. That's OK. The first side rounds out with "Victim of Love," a fine enough cut that sounds a little plain coming after the previous three, and "Cruiser," the resident heavy rocker on the record.

The second side is where this record really opens up with the synths. Greg Hawkes is the secret machine behind this band, and he goes fucking nuts on the last half of this record. "A Dream Away" is a straight up awesome song, finding Ocasek adopting a vocal style that mixes with the airy synths perfectly, bordering on talky and robotic. It's bizarrely sweet. "This Could Be Love" hammers the darker side of the keyboards, hard. The fact that Hawkes got a co-writing credit on the song is no surprise. He's dominating the sound.

"Think It Over" starts with a weird amalgam of electronic percussion, but eventually morphs into a poppier guitar tune that mirrors the sound of the title track. Of course, the end of this song bleeds into the beginning of the last track, "Maybe Baby." (At this point they're just doing that little trick out of obligation; it doesn't flow right at all.) It's a strong closer, with Ocasek taking over vocals from Benjamin Orr, who sang the previous two songs.

So, there's only nine songs on this one, but they're good ones. There's a good mix of the stuff The Cars do best. If you want the hooks, hit the first side. If you want some tremendous '81-era synth rock, flip it to side two.

"Shake It Up/Since You're Gone"

No comments: