[…continued from last post]
What was once side two was less eclectic than the first half of the album, but it started, commercially, with the most radio-ready song it would offer. “A Quick One” adhered closest to The Cars pop sound with a dreamy chord progression played rhythmically, for an almost Beach Boys sound to the keys. It was superficially cheerful, but with a underlying melancholy that made the song more memorable. Then the album got even better as Ocasek managed to build a side two suite that stood as his very own “Empires + Dance.”
It began with the only song here to be co-written with a member of The Cars, Greg Hawkes. The sound was far from The Cars. If anything, the music here and following seemed like the next logical step that should have followed “Panorama,” and it probably would have had the sales of that album dropped of significantly. The Cars very own “Dazzle Ships.” “Out Of Control” was trancelike with a minimal synth underpinning where a mood was built monolithically, and even the quivering synth waves pointed back to the “Empires + Dance” sound. Of course, this was all machines here with Hawkes guesting on synths to sit along the synths that Ocasek played throughout the album.
“Take A Walk” was more minimal synth sound with tinny, lead patches sounding like a Bontempi organ. The pulsating synth bass and Linn drum kept up a repetitive groove while Ocasek’s filtered voice recited the lyrics. It was at this point that I began drawing a line back to the most likely probable source of artistic inspiration for Ocasek this time out; the elephant in the room known as Velvet Underground. Keyboards taking over the drone role carried by John Cale on viola. Even Ric’s vocals had something of Lou Reed here. The jangling guitar chords at the end having another VU quality to them.
“Sneak Attack” continued in this vein with more vocal filtering on Ocasek while he recited beat poetry. He insisted that the album was a play on the Beat Movement and should be pronounced “Beat-itude” in a Trouser Press interview at the time of release and listening to this certainly showed why. The droning organ chords again pointed back to the VU influence that was in full flower here. So much so that this track could follow Icehouse’s “Nothing To Do” and no one would bat an eyelash.
Then the final track was something else entirely; sounding like the intro to “Waiting For The Night Boat” crossbred with the crystalline purity of The Human League’s version of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” the sustained, wailing synth drones, and the pulsing bass synth opened up about two minutes in for actual drums and the guitar of Fuzbee Morse to take this weird one back into rock territory. Then after two minutes of simmering boil, Mores unleashed a wailing acid rock solo to do Alvin Lee or David Gilmour proud as this anxious closer to the album dabbled in sounds that would never be legal in The Cars. It was a memorable ending for the album proper, but this DLX RM had the all important bonus round to consider.
Next: …Good Thing Made Better
I also remember Ocasek commenting at the time (I think on an MTV interview) that “beatitude” was “the attitude of the beat”.
JT – Let’s not forget that elsewhere in the 1982 zeitgeist, King Crimson also released their “Beat” album and man, has that one aged well for me. In 1982 I bought it immediately following the astonishing “Discipline” album and to say that it confounded my expectations back then was putting it mildly. Now? It’s a pretty intense listen!