The Cars were well named. Designed to appeal to a mass audience, the Boston band’s sleekly engineered power-pop also had complex internal workings.
Curious, then, that their propulsive mix of drive-time melodies and art rock know-how spawned only three UK Top 20 singles, while chalking up 17 million album sales in the US alone between ’78 and ’87.
This 18-track compilation – compiled with the band’s full approval – sheds little light on this mystery. Bona fide classics Just What I Needed and My Best Friend’s Girl – two of four tracks taken from their self-titled 1978 debut – possess gleaming, guitar-drilled melodies perfect for both bedroom introspection and arena singalongs.
If later material such as Tonight She Comes and Shake It Up are almost shamelessly catchy, more introspective songs from 1979’s Candy-O and 1984’s Heartbeat City nod to the brooding synth noir of Suicide while still never being less than tuneful. Sad Song, from 2011’s reunion album Move Like This, meanwhile, provides proof that Ric Ocasek’s knack of writing bittersweet, classic pop tunes hasn’t deserted him yet.
Completists will appreciate rarities including a single mix of I’m Not The One and a live version of Everything You Say. But perhaps The Cars’ real legacy is their influence on a future generation of bands. Without The Cars, it’s hard to imagine The Strokes, for one, even existing.