Monday, May 27, 2013

Cars 5: Heartbeat City

As a sign of things to come, there was a sizable gap between The Cars’ fourth and fifth albums. Part of that time was spent for Ric Ocasek and Greg Hawkes to record solo albums, and likely the rest of the time involved programming the Fairlight drums that drive Heartbeat City. This album is extremely familiar for its singles, and moreso the accompanying videos, which MTV played constantly.
Those singles were so well-placed that hearing them within the original album context seems almost random, particularly if you remember hearing them as each came out. Nonetheless, beginning the album with “Hello Again” and that belching synth riff makes sense. “Looking For Love” is a hidden pop gem, overshadowed nearly immediately by “Magic”, one of the greatest summer songs ever. (Even if you could spot the table he was standing on in the pool the second time you watched the video.) Then there’s “Drive”, all lush keyboards and Ben’s scolding voice, its video notable for introducing Ric to Paulina Porizkova. Ben also gets lead on “Stranger Eyes”, another edgy number.
“You Might Think” was the first single, and starts side two in true potboiler fashion. It’s still a pretty good stupid song. “It’s Not The Night” is the now-obligatory Greg Hawkes co-write, but it’s hard to tell how something this slight took two people to create. (Not one of Ben’s better vocals either.) “Why Can’t I Have You” was another slow single, but even another appearance by Paulina didn’t help sell it. “I Refuse” screams ‘80s movie soundtrack, but the title track ends everything in a menacing fashion.
Heartbeat City is another quality Cars album, full of snappy pop just like they’d always promised. A noticeable difference in the production credits is Robert John “Mutt” Lange, then between Def Leppard albums; modern ears can hear his hand in the backing vocals, so maybe it’s his touch that helps keep the album sounding fresh. (The expanded CD adds some worthy extras, including the hilarious remix of “Hello Again”, a heavily bossa nova demo of “Drive”, three “early versions”, the B-side “Breakaway”, and the standalone single “Tonight She Comes”, used to promote the following year’s hits album.)

The Cars Heartbeat City (1984)—
2018 expanded edition: same as 1984, plus 7 extra tracks

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