The Cars: Candy-O DLX RM US CD 
- Let’s Go
- Since I Held You
- It’s All I Can Do
- Double Life
- Shoo Be Doo
- Night Spots
- You Can’t Hold On Too Long
- Lust For Kicks
- Got A Lot On My Head
- Dangerous Type
- Let’s Go [monitor mix]
- Candy-O [Northern Studios version]
- Night Spots [Northern Studios version]
- Lust For kicks [monitor mix]
- They Won’t See You [Northern Studios version]
- That’s It [B-side “Let’s Go”]
When I received this CD as a birthday gift recently, I was most interested in revisiting the second Cars album. The first album I had been exposed to continually on the FM-Rock of 1978 so I knew it forwards and backwards. I’ve had the 2xCD DLX RM for many years now. I once owned this album on LP as well as the less successful followup, “Panorama.” The latter album didn’t get played a lot, but the songs themselves had enormous staying power. Looking at the titles almost 40 years later, it was effortless to recall each song. “Candy-O” was more of a mystery. I only owned a copy for four to five years before it met its fate in The Great Vinyl Purge of 1985. Since The Cars were a very popular group who got airplay, my attention was more focused on the core collection bands I favored in the late 70s/early 80s [you know the drill: Ultravox, JAPAN, OMD, John Foxx…] to the exclusion of bands like The Cars who I was less invested in.
The album began with its biggest hit right in the pole position. “Let’s Go” was the band’s first Top 20 hits, and looking back, it’s almost scandalous that for all of the airplay the first album got, they never cracked the Top 20 with any of its singles. This time they made it all the way to #14 in the US Billboard survey. It was a streamlined pop hit with the requisite New Wave backbeat that was all the rage in the late 70s. Greg Hawkes synth hook was direct and memorable so they were going for a hit here. At least they got a reasonable one with it. The production by Roy Thomas Baker was clean and less overstuffed with his penchant for stacked harmonies this time around. If the lyrical concerns of a guy obsessed with a teenaged girl who holds him at arm’s length was a little cliché, the band’s solid performance counted for something.
While all of the songs here, with the exception of “Night Spots” were fresh material written after the first album came out and was a hit, I would have sweared that “Since I Held You” had been something that had been kicking around since 1975 or so in the Ocasek or Orr notebooks. It sounded very pre-punk in its demeanor. As it sounded less modern than the first album, that left it the odd one out, here. The second single was another Orr-sung tune. “It’s All I Can Do” with hooky stop-start rhythm a lazy melody line that I can’t decide if it is a guitar or a synth. The plaintive pop of this one stalled just outside of the Top 40 at #41. That was America’s loss.
“Double Life” was where things started to get more interesting. Until I was reading about this album, I had no idea that this was even a single in America at all, but it was in several other territories, including Japan, from there the sleeve image next to this paragraph came from. It’s been noted that The Cars were sort of America’s answer to Roxy Music. Yeah, so they had glammed out femmes on their sleeves, it’s true, but on this track is where the depth of that notion takes root. As much as Roxy pioneered post-modernism within rock, The Cars proved to be adept students of the masters since “Double Life” was very much the sound of the band mixing and matching from various eras of rock to create a brilliant pastiche of a loping, Everly Brothers sort of tune, right down to the lazy guitar lines of Elliot Easton at a little over a minute into the song. Yet the first two lines of the lyric had been cribbed from beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Lost Parents” and the song had its jaunty pace down to the CR-78 rhythm box that just chugged away as it does. And Ben Orr was playing bass synth further pulling the eras being referenced like taffy. Like Roxy Music, this song proffered the 50s, 70s, and prefigured the 80s coming like a freight train.
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