Reason #366 Why The ’80’s Didn’t Suck: Shake It Up

carsThe Cars are thought of as an ’80’s band, and it is true that they hit their commercial peak in 1984 with Heartbeat City, but really, if we’re honest, they hit their critical peak with their first 2 albums, The Cars and Candy-O. That said, Panorama and Shake It Up, #’s 3 and 4 in their discography, are very, very underrated efforts. A sub-par Cars album is miles better than most, and upon revisiting Shake It Up this past week I have to say it just may be their most subversively dark release. For starters Shake It Up sounds like Suicide (the band, not the act); an extremely poppy Suicide, granted. But take the jubilant title track out of the equation and what you’re left with is a Lynchian soundtrack; glossy and friendly on the surface, dark, grimy and dangerous when you dig a little deeper. The house band for a new-wave version of Blue Velvet.

CRUISER: When you’re on the moonlight run
floating jets and big vignettes
get the treatment grab a cab
set aside the screaming fish
tell the world why you’re so glad
flip the switches pull the plug
you always wait for better news
you need a hit you need a slug
you don’t easily get amused

Cruiser (Sample lyrics above. A song about scoring drugs, or maybe male prostitution, who knows?), A Dream Away (Suicide again…Dream Baby Dream’s second cousin, perhaps? Rick Ocasec DID produce Suicide’s Second Album, after all…), I’m Not The One and Since Your Gone are all dark songs, lyrically, while the music is repetitive cotton candy made out of cyanide.

I really love this album, and find myself returning to it more than the debut. It is the essential Cars album released in this decade. The Cars were a weird band, man.