Friday, December 7, 2012

Cars 4: Shake It Up

Another year, another album, and the Cars were more or less on schedule. Having done it their (or Ric’s) own way on Panorama, Shake It Up was much more obvious in its quest for chart success. They even went back to putting a hot girl on the cover.
There was another wrinkle in their marketing scheme. A month before the album’s release, MTV debuted in a handful of markets across the United States. Being the good design students that they were, the band quickly got up to speed by accompanying their singles with eye-catching visuals. And if they could include more of the women they featured on their album covers, they were only enforcing their brand image.
The album is front-loaded with a pretty solid set of radio-friendly tunes. “Since You’re Gone” would gain a memorable video that played off the off-beat percussion at the start. The song covers familiar territory, and sports a strikingly distorto solo from Elliot in the break. The title track was about as dopey as they could get, so it’s no wonder it was a hit. While “I’m Not The One” wasn’t a single, it still was added to their greatest hits album a few years later, and used as humorous counterpoint in an Adam Sandler movie a decade or so after that. “Victim Of Love” is a title that pretty much everybody has used at one point or another; here Elliot gets to color the landscape with his Buddy Holly stylings. A huge radio hit where we grew up was “Cruiser”, a somewhat robotic song that still manages to sound like a band playing instead of a sequencer being programmed.
The second side only has four longish songs, each the epitome of cutting-edge New Wave, whatever that is. Fine as they are, neither “A Dream Away”, “This Could Be Love” nor “Think It Over” really stand out, but at least the just as generically titled “Maybe Baby” adds some galloping drums to prevent the album from ending on a thud.
The quality of the pop and the ubiquity of the videos helped make Shake It Up a hit, and deservedly so. The kids loved the band and knew what to expect, but in hindsight, it appeared as if things had become a little too routine. (The eventual expanded CD was packed to capacity, with the addition of “early” versions and demos, the unreleased “Midnight Dancer”, the remix of “I’m Not The One” that would grace their hits album, and a cover of “The Little Black Egg” recorded as a template for Bebe Buell.)

The Cars Shake It Up (1981)—
2018 expanded edition: same as 1981, plus 8 extra tracks

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