Saturday, November 15, 2008


It's Saturday...time again for another long nerd-essay about a great album from the past!!! Last week was all about Bowie, this week I'm taking a spin with The Cars on their second album.

The Cars are (in my humble opinon) one of rock's most underapprecitated bands. They flooded the radio with singles back in the 1970's and are now all but forgotten (or worse, used to shill crappy electronics stores...BOO!). Their first album THE CARS is classic, but for my money their masterpiece is their second album CANDY-O. So sit back and enjoy another installment of Classic Albums Revisited:

In 1978, The Cars "raced" (sorry, bad pun) onto the music scene with their eccentric blend of rock and electronic music--later to be dubbed "New Wave." Though not by any stretch the typical "rock guys," The Cars were a nerdy kind of cool. In many ways, The Cars are responsible for bands like Weezer (who share a link to The Cars, I'll discuss later). Singers Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr didn't sound like anybody on the radio at the time, with their stiff, deadpan delivery. Combined with a synthesizer, their delivery sounded very futuristic...almost robotic. And yet, at the same time, there was something very warm and organic about The Cars--with their rumbling, steady baselines and shredding guitars solos.

The Car's first album, THE CARS, is legendary--most of the tacks went on to be singles, with heavy rock radio rotation. When most people like of The Cars, they think of "Good Times Roll," "Just What I Needed," or "Best Friend's Girl," all of which is on the first record. THE CARS is a helluva record, but when I think of The Cars...I think of CANDY-O.

CANDY-O is THE CAR'S darker, more sinister twin brother. Both albums are fantastic, but put a gun to my head, and I'll pick CANDY-O in a heartbeat.

The album opens with "Let's Go," a fun/upbeat number about a girl that's growing up and experiencing the "nightlife." The song has the signature bass-line/keyboards that make a Cars song a Cars song. But that little extra ingredient is the hand-claps. Lyrically the song is interesting, featuring some of my favorite Ocasek-penned lines:

She's laughing inside 'cause they can't refuse
She's so beautiful now, she doesn't wear her shoes
She never likes to choose
She's got wonderful eyes and a risque mouth
And when I ask her before, she said she's holding out
She's a frozen fire
She's my one desire

One of my favorite Cars songs of all time is on CANDY-O: "It's All I Can Do." I'm not sure exactly when or why this song crept into my heart, but it's stuck there, and I can' t get it out. The song has a great guitar-hook, and I love the way the drums explode at the first Chorus (not to mention that funky-buzzing keyboard). It's a bitter break-up song, about being defeated and ready to throw in the towel--so here we have the darkness starting to settle in. Every thing's not all fun and games "Let's Go!" But even though this song is sad, it kicks ass...and I like that.

"Since I Held You" is similar to "It's All I Can Do," though it's a little faster.

The keyboard heavy "Night Spots" has a futuristic/computer-toned keyboard that sounds like something vaguely Japanese. It's very much a period piece (the period being the late 1970s). It's a standard "let's go out and party...boy what a weird party this is" song...but damn if the song isn't one giant guitar solo! And a sweet solo at that. It's very good at synthesizing the decadence of a night out on a neon-tinted landscape of booze and dancing.

"You Can't Hold on Too Long" is very similar, though with few keyboards and more vocals. I think this song, like the rest of CANDY-O has influenced a lot of modern bands--for some reason this song reminds me of a stripped down version of a song The Killers might do. In general though, The Cars were very influential on modern music. When the band broke up in 1988, Ric Ocasek began a new career as a record producer, helping bands like Guided By Voices, The Pink Spiders, and yes Weezer--craft a sound very similar (though updated) to the one The Cars created on their records. It's a clean, almost sterile sounding pop that still has that human element to it. I also hear this sound in many of the later No Doubt records, specifically ROCK STEADY (which is itself a pretty good record).

The recipe was perfected, in my opinion on "Got A Lot On My Head" which comes near the end of CANDY-O. This song is a speedy-blast through a confused/agitated mind. It's a song about being a little to wrapped up in someone (of the opposite sex) and is classic Cars. Everything about this song is perfect, but it's the little touches that impress me the most. Like the "You-hoo-oos!" in the chorus or the chugging guitar-lick that opens (and basically repeats during) the song.

I think the album's most famous song, however, is the one at the very end "Dangerous Type." This song is heavy on the keyboards and has a guitar riff that's sounds suspiciously like T-Rex's "Bang a Gong." Maybe that's why I love it so much? Either way, this song has an almost widescreen scope to--it's an epic thing, full of grandeur (listen to that soaring ending, have you ever heard such a crescendo? And those wanky-electic vocals at the end, forget about!!! It's too fucking sweet my freind, we don't deserve music this rad).

CANDY-O is an awesome record, and now that I've gotten the music out of the way I can get to something that's just as important--the cover. Boy is the album art hot. I don't have this record on vinyl, but I sure wouldn't mind having it...if for nothing else, than for that artwork. The cover was painted by famous pin-up painter Alberto Vargas (who only agreed to do it because is great-niece was a fan of the band). The woman in the painting is a hybrid of two women, Nancy Beth and a woman named Candy (oddly enough). Beth was a dancer who initially agreed on posing for the cover, but backed out half-way through the painting because she decided NOT be naked on a rock album cover (Boo!). So the band hired a woman named Candy Moore to stand in so the cover could be finished. Once the label saw the original art--they flipped, and have the nipples toned down, and the pubic hair removed (again, Boo!). But on the bright-side, Moore's participation on the cover led to a brief love affair with drummer David Robinson.

Anyway, the cover's awesome, the music is awesome. CANDY-O (the "O" incidentally stands for "obnoxious" according to the band) is a fucking great album. Go check it out.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Absolutely love it! Thanks for posting. so the face is beck, and the body is candy? heres my blog about the cars reunite: