The New Cars - It's Alive Review
by Patrick Muldowney
The creation of The New Cars began with a choice. Over a month ago, I watched Ric Ocasek perform on VH1 Classic. This acoustic performance, which I probably was not witnessing on its first airing, featured some new material from him, which was not phenomenal, but definitely was above average. During this performance, he was questioned about The Cars, and responded that he would be receptive to getting back into the studio with the band, but would never want to tour with them again. The rest of The Cars, now The New Cars, obviously were not content with the possibility of recording, but driven to take their wrinkled rock and roll mugs out on the road, so they traded in their Cadillac CTS front man for a Kia Rio with ground effects and a 24" subwoofer, and they're driving the stupid thing everywhere, scoping out chicks. Yes, they will be touring a town near you with Blondie, who now has Kate Bush singing lead. The Blondie thing is a joke, but sadly The New Cars is not, at least not in the make believe joke sort of way.
This concoction, cooked up by four simultaneous mid-life crises, should be apparent from the moment you peep the cover of the CD. The dark glasses, serious artist stares, and rock 'n roll lean, is only interrupted by a Star Trek-like individual in the middle. This is Todd Rundgren, the only member who has not gone off the deep end, but looks no better than a nemesis of Spock from the planet, Frogon. He makes getting a singer from a reality show like Rock Star look genius, at least aesthetically. Above this surreal photo is The New Cars in big letters with the letters TNA highlighted. Who the hell would think up this idea, and how could five grown individuals agree upon it? I guess once you decide you can tour without the only recognizable member of your band, the stupidity doesn't end there. The only thing right about the cover is the title, It's Alive, because this does seem like a madman's experiment that turned into a hideous monster.
I would love to say this entire review, to this point, was my effort to create irony, and that the music was incredible, and all my perceptions were hypercritical, but that is not the truth. The only parts of the album worth mentioning are the live performances of old Cars classics. Rundgren does not try to bring anything new to the table with these songs, simply trying to sing his best Ocasek. This works well with songs like "Moving in Stereo" and "Good Times Roll", while failing to meet the standard during songs like "Just What I Needed", where the chorus struggles, and "Let's Go", when he sounds like Ocasek after a long battle with the bottle. In all honesty, Rundgren may have been the best fit for the other voice of The Cars, but I'm not really sure what the point is, considering a Cars tribute band could do as much, and surely at a cheaper price.
It would have been more respectable, if this was being done for the love of playing music, for the band to assume its own identity, but I'm assuming money, sex, or megalomania were the determining factors for Easton, Hawkes, Sulton, and Prince. When those are the desires, it is easier to take shortcuts, and destroy everything that was honestly built. Just to be clear, The New Cars is not solely a cover band. The new album, which is drenched in live classics, also features three new studio songs buried at the back of the disc. The gem of these lackluster efforts is "Not Tonight", where the ever so sexy alien, Todd Rundgren, lets the extraterrestrial babe know, "I could squeeze you in/but my dance card is full." I didn't know dance cards existed, but I finally know how to organize all the chickadees next time I go to the doo wop. Even their best original confuses what should be the target audience. I listened to The Cars growing up, along with my sisters and brothers, not my parents and grandparents.
Here is what you can expect from The New Cars: music that is The Cars because the band is there, vocals that if you close your eyes may sound like Ric Ocasek until he hits those notes (which happen every song) that bring you back to reality, and some absurd looking former rock stars trying to capture old glory. If you're that type of much older fan who lobotomizes yourself when music starts playing, you might think this is great, just like The Beach Boys are great without Brian Wilson. Otherwise, you will be disgusted that It's Alive even became a musical experiment, and deathly ill when you hear the results.
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The New Cars - It's Alive
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