The Cars – Heartbeat City (1984): Review

cars

Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and The Cars
Label – Elektra

Owing to diminishing returns with each successive release, I sometimes wonder if the big wigs at Elektra exerted an amount of pressure on The Cars to produce this, their most mainstream, accessible album. They certainly threw a lot of money at it. Bringing in hot shot producer Mutt Lange, who could have probably called any fee he wanted following the success achieved producing Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” album the previous year. Employing top notch visual directors to produce a clutch of memorable videos for the singles must have added to the advance, which courted the attention, and eventually became staples on MTV. The songs on the whole are the most radio friendly, up-tempo Pop rockers of the band’s career, and spawned two top ten singles (“Drive” and “You Might Think”). There’s a deliberate move away from the New wave/Art rock of previous recordings and liberal doses of synth heavy gloss are added to create an album that works well, within its lightweight, catchy boundaries.

The highlights are the singles. The melodramatic “Drive” (which is one of the few contemplative pieces) carries a sweetly melancholic Greg Hawkes synth line, whilst Ben Orr delivers a velvety baritone to complement the moody soundscape. “You Might Think” may carry lines that an overbearing teen stalker would remonstrate to his less than enthused girlfriend, but it’s mighty fun in the process and was further enhanced by an excellent promo. “Magic” is as exhilarating as its title suggests, with a punchy three chord verse, celebratory lovestruck lyrics from Rick Ocasek, and a chorus that explodes like a rocket from a bottle shot free. It’s all great fun, and terrific driving music (particularly with willing friends who can sing along), where the gears need to be engaged but the mind doesn’t, and for that reason the lightweight nature of “Heartbeat City” can become a little shallow for the listener who’s looking for something a little more creatively challenging.

“Heartbeat City” reinstates smiles on faces and a spring into steps. Instantly gratifying, which isn’t always a bad thing, The Cars know exactly how to attract your aural attention with a bag full of tempting Pop bait.

7/10

Tracklist
“Hello Again” 3:48
“Looking for Love 3:52
“Magic” 3:57
“Drive” 3:55
“Stranger Eyes” 4:16
“You Might Think” 3:04
“It’s Not the Night” 3:49
“Why Can’t I Have You” 4:04
“I Refuse” 3:16
“Heartbeat City” 4:31

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4 responses to “The Cars – Heartbeat City (1984): Review

  1. This was pretty much the end of the road for The Cars, Their next album “Door To Door” was pretty much blown engine. Great review. “Heartbreak Beat” was more popular than it was satisfying.

    • Yeah, I loved their debut, and “Candy O” was pretty good too. Then there was a slide with “Panorama” and “Shake It Up”, then they kind of returned to form with this record although it was quite different from the rest. I never even heard “Door To Door” but I’ll take your word for it.

      • Today at 3 year wait between albums is nothing but back then it was. It was three years from “Heartbreak Beat” in ’84 to “Door to Door” in ’87. You would have thought that since “Heartbreak Beat” was such a commercial hit they would have had a follow up out at least a year earlier. Strike while they are hot. “Door To Door” seemed like an afterthought. I don’t think I’ve listened to it since the 80’s.

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