All-Time Albums: #45


THE CARS Heartbeat City

1 Hello Again 3:47
2 Looking For Love 3:52
Magic 3:57
Drive 3:55 (UK single, #4)
5 Stranger Eyes 4:26
6 You Might Think 3:04 (UK single, #88)
7 It’s Not The Night 3:49
Why Can’t I Have You 4:04
9 I Refuse 3:16
10 Heartbeat City 4:31 (UK single, #78)

Six years after hitting the UK Top 3 with My Best Friends Girl, New Wave combo The Cars teamed up with Def Leppard producer Robert “Mutt” Lange and had their most successful album since their eponymous debut from 1978.

That said, aside from the sublime, almost Cliff Richard-esque ballad Drive, the British public still didn’t really take to the quirky jerky style of their output in the way they did with either Talking Heads or The B-52’s. Drive would be the only UK hit single (twice over, in fact, thanks to Live Aid), whereas in America several other tracks were huge (Magic, You Might Think and Hello Again).

Lange’s trademark sound and style is all over Heartbeat City; any rough edges to the arrangements have been studiously smoothed out, any parts of songs which don’t have a hook have been dispensed with. It’s how the likes of Hysteria by Def Leppard and Bryan Adams’ Waking Up The Neighbours would be constructed in the future. We get layers and layers of warm synths, gated drums, multi-tracked vocals and memorable choruses. It sounds like a million dollars, which cannot be said for any other album in the Cars catalogue.

Quite how or why this record wasn’t much bigger in Britain is a mystery; it’s not as if we were immune to cleverly crafted AOR, and the Top 5 success of Drive really ought to have laid a platform for more Top 40 action. It did, however, put the band back in the spotlight after a couple of so-so albums, and paved the way for a well-received Greatest Hits collection to follow in late 1985.

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