Friday, November 9, 2012

Cars 3: Panorama

Around the time of his first solo album, which we’re not going to discuss here, Ric Ocasek said that the ideal situation for him would be a “three-record deal”—but not the one you’d think. For him, that would be the ability to make an album only three people would like. It’s not exactly the easiest way to make a living, but it shows the perpetual contrast between commercial appeal and creative freedom.
Back in the land of the Cars, Panorama wasn’t that album only three people would like, but it was the so-called difficult third album, following the success of the debut and the reaction in the follow-up. From the start, it’s not chock full of hits. The title track is predominantly computerized and cold, hardly tuneful and very dated. After the better part of six minutes, “Touch And Go” is particularly welcome, a terrific tune that still spend most of its time in 5/4. “Gimme Some Slack” is also pretty catchy, even if does resemble “She’s So Cold” by the Rolling Stones, which had only come out a couple of months earlier. Ben Orr finally sings on “Don’t Tell Me No”, albeit in a snotty voice, but “Getting Through” gets silly again, complete with what would now be called video game noises.
Side two is a little more straight, even if there’s nothing as excellent as “Touch And Go”. “Misfit Kid” might have made some geeks feel a little less alone. Another digital explosion bridges “Down Boys” (NOT the Warrant song) and the softer “You Wear Those Eyes”, and Ben’s suite finishes with “Running To You”, which might have made the charts had it been a single. “Up And Down” is dominated by drums sounding akin to someone beating a bat against a metal trash can, bringing the album somewhat full circle.
Panorama certainly offers more of the Cars brand, but again, it was almost as if they were daring their audience to keep up with them. To that extent, they succeeded, but it doesn’t tend to get as many plays as their previous work to date. Maybe if they’d put a hot girl on the cover… (Decades later, three previously unreleased tracks would be added to the CD, one of which is an earlier version of a song from their next album, along with the twice-used B-side “Don’t Go To Pieces”.)

The Cars Panorama (1980)—3
2017 expanded edition: same as 1980, plus 4 extra tracks


  1. Only a 3? I heard this album about 100 times within 6 months when it came out. It definitely not as "fun" as the previous 2 albums, but it has a unity that they lack and is superbly produced. Also - it looks very much to how many 80s electronic type groups would sound - less of the harkening back to rock n roll of the 50s and 60s of the first 2 albums. Mechanical and stripped down and slightly depressing. Really great (I think).

  2. Wardo, I loved your site and your somewhat short reviews. I really do not mind and you are the best web critic. As for panorama, it is weird but pretty cool. Despite the fact that the cars made 7 albums and due to the deaths of Ben and ric, I loved the cars a lot. they are in the rock and roll hall of fame. Excellent reviews.