Posted in Album Reviews

The Cars – The Cars (1978)

Originating in Boston in the mid-70s, The Cars released their self-titled debut in the early summer of 1978.  Forever featured on compilations like Time Life Collections, the band was at the foreground of the new wave scene.  Adding synthesizers to classic, but minimalist songwriting proved to be a winner. Though none of the three official singles cracked the top 25, the album stayed on the charts for a mind boggling 139 weeks with most of the tracks being played endlessly on AOR radio stations.

In 2002, Elektra Records released The Cars compilation Complete Greatest Hits that pulled 6 of the 9 songs from the debut.  The three aforementioned singles; “Good Times Roll”, “My Best Friend’s Girl”, and “Just What I Needed”, are all classic American rock songs.  80s teenage movie goers will always remember “Moving In Stereo” being used to great effect in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Of the tracks not appearing on the greatest hits collection, only “I’m In Touch with your World” suffers from a bit too much artiness.  “Don’t Cha Stop” is a fun upbeat romp and “All Mixed Up” pushes the synthesizers to the foreground, adds some atmosphere with Queen like group singing and a fine sax solo at the end. 

The Cars debut features the songwriting of bandleader Ric Ocasek who wrote all the tracks with help from keyboardist Greg Hawkes on “Moving In Stereo”.  Bassist Benjamin Orr takes over lead vocals on several tracks including “Just What I Needed” and sounds very similar to Ocasek’s so blends in seamlessly.  Along with guitarist Elliot Easton and drummer David Robinson, The Cars was one of the best debut albums of the 1970s.

10/10

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Posted in Album Reviews

Jenny Lewis – On The Line (2019)

On Jenny Lewis’ Wikipedia page, the reader is struck by how much she has accomplished in both TV/film and music.  Starting in acting at a young age, Lewis switched over to music with her old band, Rilo Kiley, formed with her then boyfriend Blake Sennett.  On The Line is her fourth solo album, including 2006’s release as the Watson Twins, and second since the break-up of Rilo Kiley in 2014. 

On The Line features an impressive list of collaborators including Beck and Ryan Adams (both producing), Ringo Starr, Don Was, Benmont Tench, etc. Common themes of drugs, drinking and broken relationships emerge throughout the eleven songs.  “Wasted Youth” is a peppy track that features the line, “I wasted my youth on a poppy, just for fun”.  First single “Red Bull & Hennessy” is a standout that is certainly more polished and somehow seems brighter than the other tracks here.  “Taffy” is slower and more dramatic as Lewis taps into her inner Lana Del Rey before the album ends on a sparkling, upbeat 60s influenced “Rabbit Hole” that namechecks both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The supporting cast never outshines the star, and it is clear that Jenny Lewis is the star here.  While failing relationships make up the bulk of the album, it rarely comes across as a downer. On The Line tells a lot of tales and is more than happy to bring the listener along for the ride.

8.5/10

Posted in Paper Chase

Q1 Read It 2019

The subtitle of Susan Cain’s 2012 New York Times Bestseller Quiet is “The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”.  Quiet is a well-researched look into how introverts handle a world that is geared towards celebrating the extrovert ideal.  There are many examples that introverts will readily notice in themselves.  The Harvard student who feels like he’s yelling if he talks above his normal, low speaking voice, the woman whose husband wants to entertain friends every week and the professor who has to seek out quiet areas after giving (very well received) speeches.

Cain’s writing style is interesting and can be quite funny at times.  Some of the material feels geared to more of an extreme introvert, can be a bit too rah rah for the quiet ones, and a bit too harsh in regards to society.  I would consider myself an introvert but have never been uncomfortable in work places that have cubicles and generally enjoyed my co-workers chatter.  However, I definitely seek out quiet at the end of the day in order to recharge the batteries. It is nice to read that some of the social tics introverts have are felt by others and that it’s perfectly OK to say no to nights out on the town vs staying at home to read.

7/10

Before releasing the commercially and critically unsuccessful punk rock album Animal Rights in 1996, Moby was a rising star in the world of dance music.  His 1995 release, Everything Is Wrong was rated as Spin’s album of the year and is solidly one of this writer’s favourite discs of all time. Moby’s first book, Porcelain, focuses on his rise through the New York DJ ranks to his mid-90s commercial failures and the recording of Play that would make him a mega star.  The conflicted Christian and staunch vegan, it is interesting to read Moby navigate New York’s music world while remaining sober through much of it.  The book is not only a look at Moby but also what living in NY was like on a shoestring budget.  It’s hard to like Moby at times but it’s a fascinating read for even those with a passing interest in the music industry and electronic music world.  The follow-up, Then It Fell Apart, came out on May 7th.

9/10

Prairie Fire – Volume 39, No.  4, Winter 2018

Prairie Fire – Volume 38, No.  4, Winter 2017