Village Voice critic Robert Christgau got it spot on when he described The Cars’ second album, 1979’s clean and clinically adept new wave masterpiece Candy-O (7⁄10) – the exact midpoint of McCartney and Devo, for anyone taking notes – as “cold and thin, shiny and hypnotic, it’s what they do best – rock and roll that is definitely pop without a hint of cuteness”.
Candy-O is near brutal in its focus: aimed straight at the heart of US AM radio, and containing several certifiable pop/rock gems, including Top 20 US single Let’s Go. It peaked at No.3 on the Billboard charts, and the only surprise was that it didn’t go all the way to the top spot.
This reissued edition contains several extra tracks – monitor mixes of Let’s Go and Lust For Kicks, for example, while white-tie beatnik singer Ric Ocasek’s clipped and fragrant tones remain a delight.
The follow-up, 1980’s Panorama (7⁄10), marked a return to the band’s more minimal, experimental, artpunk roots, although the Top 40 single Touch And Go still rollicks along, rockabilly-style.
In places, the third album feels a bit too smart for its own good – like the UK’s own XTC, The Cars never suffered from a lack of imagination or a spot of intricate synthesizer or a distended time change – but invariably the pop wins out.