After releasing a debut album that was considered perfect, packed with hits from beginning to end, the Cars faced an interesting dilemma on Candy-O. Should they make an exact replica and rake in the bucks? Or fool with the formula just enough to keep it interesting (while still emptying the tillers)? Working again with producer Roy Thomas Baker, the band wrote an almost entirely new batch of songs that captured the same pop highs as The Cars while sounding different in some important ways…
The Cars were responsible for some of rock's most recognizable radio hits by the mid-'80s, so when the band took an extended break after their successful tour for Heartbeat City, 1985's Greatest Hits was assembled. Mixed in with the familiar selections was a brand-new track, the playful "Tonight She Comes" (which became a Top Ten hit), as well as a remix of the overlooked "Shake It Up" ballad "I'm Not the One." And while most of the expected hits are represented ("Just What I Needed," "Let's Go," "Drive," "Shake It Up," etc.), some of the selections prove questionable – why was the title track from Heartbeat City (an unsuccessful single) included instead of the 1984 Top 20 hit "Hello Again"?
The Cars' 1978 self-titled debut, issued on the Elektra label, is a genuine rock masterpiece. The band jokingly referred to the album as their "true greatest-hits album," but it's no exaggeration – all nine tracks are new wave/rock classics, still in rotation on rock radio. Whereas most bands of the late '70s embraced either punk/new wave or hard rock, the Cars were one of the first bands to do the unthinkable – merge the two styles together. Add to it bandleader/songwriter Ric Ocasek's supreme pop sensibilities, and you had an album that appealed to new wavers, rockers, and Top 40 fans. One of the most popular new wave songs ever, "Just What I Needed," is an obvious highlight, as are such familiar hits as "Good Times Roll," "My Best Friend's Girl," and "You're All I've Got Tonight." But like most consummate rock albums, the lesser-known compositions are just as exhilarating: "Don't Cha Stop," "Bye Bye Love," "All Mixed Up," and "Moving in Stereo," the latter featured as an instrumental during a steamy scene in the popular movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
If rock's most successful and memorable acts have usually succeeded by wrapping their own distillation of music history and personal tastes in whatever fashionable trappings are currently gripping the culture, it's hardly surprising that the Cars remain one of the most enduring symbols of the punk/new wave era. This 20-track anthology distills that argument perfectly. Ric Ocasek's songs embody a solid '60s sense of pop craftsmanship informed by a trend-conscious stylistic sheen and a cynical, slippery emotional detachment that's often betrayed by his own distinctly weary brand of romanticism, from the anxious pop of "Just What I Needed" and "You're All I've Got Tonight" to the melancholy-on-ice musings of "Drive" and "Tonight She Comes." Sixteen of the 20 cuts here were chart singles, and radio staples like "Bye Bye Love" and "Dangerous Type" might as well have been.