The New Cars
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2006, Volume 13, #6
Written by Tracy M. Rogers
The Cars without Ric Ocasek or Benjamin Orr? Somehow, it just seems wrong. And, truthfully, it sounds wrong, too. As the leader of The New Cars, ’70s crooner Todd Rundgren tries his damnedest to impersonate both Ocasek and Orr, but he fails miserably on both accounts. In fact, Rundgren’s wailing bears more than a passing resemblance to an injured, baying animal. To be certain, his backing band is tight and well-rehearsed, and it delivers a very good approximation of the original ensemble. Though the collective’s debut It’s Alive features four new songs — two of which were recorded in the studio and none of which are worthy of the original act — it largely is just a series of concert-captured retreads of The Cars’ greatest hits.
Not surprisingly, Rundgren himself is listed as both engineer and producer of It’s Alive, and truthfully, the set seems to be more a recording in service of his ego that, utilizing Ocasek’s compositions, was made in the interest of financial profit. Rundgren even throws one of his old compositions — the hugely out of place I Saw the Light — into the mix, but even on his original work, he seems to be attempting to sound like Ocasek, both vocally and in the song’s new arrangement. Neither works. One of the new tracks (Not Tonight) unmercifully appears twice — once live and once in its studio incarnation. In both versions, the lyrics come across as trite, the riffs conventional and overused. Open My Eyes — which is new to The Cars’ canon, but actually is a retread of an old tune of Rundgren’s from his days with Nazz — is repetitive and overly simplistic, and it could have been sung by any number of local bands at happy hour. Warm is a cloying tune about lost love that is hopelessly ill-placed in the collection as a whole.
Nostalgic fans and ’80s children alike should steer clear of It’s Alive, an album that possesses neither artistic merit nor any semblance of the innovation and entertainment value of The Cars. Anyone seeking to know more about the original band would be wise to purchase either its 1978 eponymous debut (or the deluxe version of it that was issued in 1999). The New Cars doesn’t come close to capturing its essence.
It's Alive is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box