Record Review: The Cars – Candy-O US DLX RM [part 2]

The Cars in 1979

Ben Orr – “Well, it worked for Sting…” as Ric averted his gaze

[…continued from last post]
After the last 90 seconds of “Double Life” chugged away in a static fashion, there was a violent crossfade to a song with a much more frantic tempo. “Shoo Be Doo” was an homage to Suicide; built upon a jittery rhythm box after it had obviously hit the amphetamines. Singer [and number one Suicide fan] Ocasek delivered his terse, haiku-like lyrics slathered in the slapback echo beloved of rockabilly singers… and Alan Vega. The brief, shocking number seemed more like a dub of a Cars song by Suicide than a song itself. With “Shoo Be Doo,” the band clearly slammed their collective feet down hard on the pedal and accelerated to a strange place where they would never venture again. But for those 92 seconds, it was pure thrill ride! The insane dub reverb loop [possibly courtesy of an AMS DMX 15-80 digital delay] of Ocasek freaking out at the song’s climax repeated four times before the hard splice into the album’s title track sounded so inhuman; so thrilling, that it became the standard against which I would forever measure The Cars. And ultimately, find them wanting.

“Candy-O” was a sizzler of a song that managed to follow on to “Shoo Be Doo” and not sound deflated. Which is quite a feat! In fact, this taut little number should have been a single instead of the devastating deep cut that it was. Ben Orr’s vocals were dryly distant and I loved how it was built on a sequencer loop. The impact of Moroder two year earlier having obviously even touched upon forward thinking US rock bands like The Cars. The squelchy synth loops suggested DEVO, and not for the first time with this band. Best of all was the frantic solo that Elliot Easton laid down in the two bars allotted to him. He sounded like he was gleefully channeling Eddie Van Halen in a vastly different context. The cold ending brought “side one” to an abrupt end but not a second was wasted on this CD as we moved immediately to the next song.

“Night Spots” continued the incredible seam that had begun in the middle of “side one” to dive deep in to the dark heart of this album. The synth riff rondo was a grabber and the vibe here suggested the dark flipside to “Let’s Go” which had begun the album. But that was just kids playing. The minor key synth leads from Greg Hawkes, as well as other dissonant elements poking through the music suggested something more adult and dangerous. The thrill of night clubbing but with the degradation and fall from grace just around the bend foreshadowed in the tense music. If The Cars were America’s answer to Roxy Music as some have posited, then this was their “For Your Pleasure” track. All matte black and chrome to contrast with the brightly lit cover. The clouds had to break, and they did for “You Can’t Hold On Too Long,” the least interesting song here since “Since I Held You.”

Fortunately, the winsome “Lust For Kicks” sported not only a great title, but a great Farfisa-like mono synth line courtesy of Hawkes. It’s telling that the generation of rock keyboardists who were born in the 50s and were teens when the Farfisa organ ruled garage rock for about a year and a half, came of age as musicians among the Emersons and Wakemans who ruled the 70s. Once those dinosaurs were deposed, the New Wave that followed was most definitely built upon the cheap cheerful Farfisa sound of the mid 60s. Players like Steve Nieve, Johnny Fingers, and even Hawkes all arrived there in ’78-’79 and this keyboard sound was the clarion call of New Wave. Perhaps the least Prog manner to coax sound out of a keyboard. I know that was one of the factors that attracted me to New Wave since “96 Tears” was my number one childhood rock song.

Next: …Gimme Danger

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to Record Review: The Cars – Candy-O US DLX RM [part 2]

  1. jsd says:

    The transition from Shoo-Bee-Doo to Candy-O is one of the best moments in rock history. Fight me. Candy-O the song is consistently in my top 5 Cars tracks too. Love the combo of moroder-esque sequence and rock riffage. They were rarely better.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – Insidputably so! That four song sequence in the middle is poetry. And “Candy-O” was just too damn good not to have been at least a legendary cult single.

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      • Echorich says:

        SO VERY TRUE! It was the track of choice for FM Rock radio in the New York Metro Area a the time. Problem was it would get sandwiched in between Led Zeppelin or The Stone, or worse yet a nondescript Rush track.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – I might have heard it under the exact same circumstances! Such was the monolithic state of FM Rock at the time. It didn’t matter which state or city you heard it in. It was uniform in its expression.

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  2. Echorich says:

    …Shoo Be Doo. You flattened that nail deep into the wood Monk. This is Suicide, whatever side you view it from. A song best listened to in the dark after midnight while sitting or laying on you bed, it takes the listener on a dark, aggressive trip. Then it devolves into the frantic opening of Candy-O. Sheer Rock and Roll genius. The track glides like a Grand Prix race car with the driver’s foot pushing the accelerator into the floor. The cold ending allows Shoo Be Doo and Candy-O to stand alone. Taking a breath the album jumps into Night Spots. This is another of my most favorite Cars songs. Why you may ask? Replicas. The moment I heard this, I was transported into the same Alien world that opened up to me when I first heard Gary Numan’s Replicas album just a few months prior. Sure the guitars are much more forward, but that repetitive synth chord of Hawkes is what drive the song for me. But hear, it’s not a future of alienation that’s on offer, it’s futurism as hedonism.
    I lay the “blame” for You Can’t Hold On Too Long squarely on Roy Thomas Baker. There are so may Queen, Roxy and may I even offer BeBop Deluxe moments in the song that whatever Orr or Ocasek were going for got caught up in the Glam of it all. Looking back, I have more appreciation for the track than I might have 40 years ago, playing the album start to finish.
    Lust For Kicks is another of the track in The Cars’ canon that sews them into the fabric of New Wave. I can play any track from the first two Talking Heads before and after Lust For Kicks and it fits.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Very perceptive that you picked out Tubeway Army’s “Replicas.” Some of the synth patches Hawkes used on this album did have a resemblance to those that Numan used on his opus. I’m also thinking of similarities of a few of the patches on offer to specifically those in the coda of “When The Machines Rock.” And the “Lust For Kicks”/TVLKING HEVDS scenario you posited is seamless to these ears! Well played.

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