Smiths Complete - Available at Rhino.coma-ha "Hunting High & Low" and "Scoundrel Days" Deluxe Editions Rhino Handmade raids the vault!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lost Cars Month - The Cars Door To Door

The Cars were in a peculiar position in 1987. After the huge success of Heartbeat City and some lesser success with various solo outlets, the band regrouped to work on a new album. Judging from the results, one could assume the band was torn between going back to basics or just throwing in the towel to give the people what they wanted, or assumed, from a Cars album. Door To Door is a strange beast - the first single, "You Are The Girl", was a shameless rewrite of "Tonight She Comes", a big hit from the Greatest Hits album that had some out a year prior, just slowed down a tad with some new lyrics slapped on. Not exactly a creative pinnacle.

In a complete turnaround, the second single, "Strap Me In", was a breath of fresh air, as the group shook off all the slick Mutt Lange/Roy Thomas Baker sheen they'd been shellacked in for years and delivered one of their rawer, rockier tracks, reminiscent of the Panorama era. The lyrical theme has changed somewhat - instead of Ric Wanting What He Can't Have, we now have songs about not only having it, but possibly regretting it, or settling in for the ride. Naturally, something as less slick and intriguing as "Strap Me In" tanked. After all, who wants to hear someone complain about being married to a supermodel?

Elektra wasn't about to give up on one of their biggest cash cows, however, picking the most Soft Rock/Adult Contemporary song in the entire Cars oveure as Door's third single. "Coming Up You" is almost sickly sweet, full of tinkly keyboards, shmoopy lyrics and, since he sang on their biggest ballad "Drive", Ben Orr vocals. Having said all that, I actually kinda like it and feel it should have been a much bigger hit than its paltry chart ranking reflects. I'm sure Elektra felt the same way.

But contrast it with "Strap Me In" or the album's title track, which is absolutely the thrashiest, punkiest song The Cars ever put to vinyl, and it's obvious Ric was having a serious identity crisis. Which Cars did he want to give us? The new, super-shiny plastic pop hits Cars or the New Wave/Suicide-influenced Cars of old? And what direction could The Cars go next?

Sadly, we'll never know. The Cars broke up just as "Coming Up You" was struggling up the charts, creating sort of a nice bookend for the New Wave era of the '80s.

"Strap Me In" peaked at #85 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #4 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks Charts in 1987.
"Coming Up You" peaked at #74 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988.
"Door To Door" was not a single.

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posted by John, 6:07 PM