The Cars – Shake It Up

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I bought this album in the fourth grade – a year when I also purchased Blondie’s Greatest Hits, the Go-Go’s Vacation, and Freeze Frame by the J. Geils Band. I was a very cool 8 year old, and nobody knew it. I should note that my hometown did not have cable tv and it would still be at least a year or two before I saw my first music video, and of course, I was an only child and my parents were immigrants. There were no rock records in my home; my family had no history with rock. In other words, I had no built-in context for or source of rock; everything I discovered, I did on my own. Did I stumble along the way? Yes – I also bought the Alan Parsons’ Project album Eye In the Sky (I liked the song!) and The One That You Love by Air Supply. But I am very proud of my organic musical development.

What I Think of This Album

I keep this album around almost entirely out of nostalgia. It boasts two excellent songs, one good song, and three decent songs. This is something that can be swept aside in favor of a compilation. What I’m saying is, do not buy this album, unless music and your pet dog were the only good things about your childhood, too.

The good news is the album is front-loaded. Actually, I’m not sure why that matters. Anyway, “Since You’re Gone” is the true star here, even though fourth-grade me would never admit that. With an intro that sounds like a robot snapping its fingers, the song benefits from Elliot Easton’s melodic riff against a descending series of chords. Ocasek turns in a fine, desperate vocal and the backing vocals coming in at 1:15, followed closely by a synth squiggle from Greg Hawkes, cement this as one of the Cars’ best songs. Easton throws in some simple but effective lead parts with a tone to die for.

Next comes childhood favorite “Shake It Up.” I could not get enough of this song back then, and I can hear why. It’s totally fun (but admittedly flimsy). Easton’s riffing at the start is great, the rhythm is relentless, the chorus is simple and catchy, and the keyboard parts during the chorus worm their way into your amygdala. The solo is phenomenal.

Jumping ahead to “Victim of Love,” the Cars offered up a well-crafted pop song. The percussion has electronic elements and there are some keyboard sounds, but this is a classicist piece through and through; this could have come from the Brill Building. The keyboards are pretty great, as are the backing vocals. Easton gives us a nice swampy guitar. “Think It Over” is entertaining enough, without being anything special. Easton and Hawkes sound like they are having fun, at least, and Benjamin Orr sings lead, and there’s enough there to make you want to listen to it to the end.

Similar is “Maybe Baby,” which bursts out of the gate with tom rolls (though the sound is terrible); this song doesn’t amount to anything but it’s okay to listen to every now and then. Finally, ballad “I’m Not the One” is decent – it doesn’t sound much like a Cars song – it sounds very much like a mainstream Top 40 ballad – but it is not unlistenable. So, the bad includes the boring rocker “Cruiser,” which loses points for being a bad pun; this song goes nowhere and the synth parts sound ridiculous. “A Dream Away” is where I would like to be when this song comes on – pretty much a total waste of time. “This Could Be Love” is ponderous and gloomy, which is not a mood the Cars do well.

The Best Thing About This Album

My brain says “Since You’re Gone,” but my heart says “Shake It Up.” My heart never got me anywhere, though. My brain at least puts food on the table and pays the bills. “Since You’re Gone” it is.

Release Date

November, 1981

The Cover Art

Again, too silly and obvious, and the font is terrible.

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