Depressing Cars Tracks

I was reading a few reviews of the new Cars album, to get a feel for how similar it was to their older work. In retrospect, I think if I were 20 years older I would be a huge Cars fan. They’re certainly a forerunner to some of my favorite current music, and it would have been fun to follow their career as it evolved.

As it stands, my relationship with the band began in the dead of winter, at the tail end of 2003. I got their “Complete Greatest Hits” for Christmas from my mom. The cool part is, I don’t even think I asked for it, she just knew what a great band they were, and that my young mind would take to it.

Most of that winter I spent listening to that collection of songs, as well as the two-disk Talking Heads Sand in the Vaseline collection. I specifically recall loafing around the house with a portable CD player (which makes me feel really old, in retrospect) listening to the likes of ”My Best Friend’s Girl’, ‘Moving in Stereo’, ‘Shake It Up’, ‘You Might Think’, and plenty others. The CD had twenty tracks!

Since I was reading about their new record, it seemed only proper to dust off the old collection and give it a spin (figuratively now, as I’ve no clue where that CD player has gotten to…). What I’d forgotten was that perhaps in spite their image/reputation as a sort of hits machine, the Cars could write some really, really melancholy music. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, in point of fact, it’s fantastic.

But it’s still sad as the dickens. Exhibit A:

      Since You're Gone - The Cars

Sure, this one probably wasn’t the chart-scaling success of the band’s previous hits, but it’s still catchy. But the content is pretty grim:

Since you’re gone
The nights are gettin’ strange
Since you’re gone
Well nothing’s makin’ any sense
Since you’re gone
I stumbled in the shade
Since you’re gone
Everything’s in perfect tense…

Since you’re gone
I missed the peak sensation

Since you’re gone
I took the big vacation
Well never feel sedate
Well the moonlight ain’t so great

Since you’re gone
Well I’ve thrown it all away
Well the nights are getting strange

Sheesh. Rougher still is one of my all-time-favorite-downer songs (a playlist I’m almost too scared to actually make): ‘Drive‘.

      Drive - The Cars

I mean… come on. There’s such a thread of sullen resignation to the entire song, and that would be one thing, but it’s so unwavering. The entire song is about how whatever isn’t working is over; it never flinches from its thesis, not even once.

Still, the track is surprisingly gentle. It’s not angry, depressed, or bitter. It’s one of the purest declarations of sadness I suppose I’ve ever heard from a song. And I am totally guilty of liking my share of mopey music.

Perhaps that was one of the greatest strengths of the Cars was that they could tap into more emotional topics as well as writing some of the most iconic pop of their time, and could even fuze the two: ‘Drive’ was their highest charting hit in the States, which I would not have guessed.

The Cars – Complete Greatest Hits

One comment

  1. I’ve heard “Drive” on the radio a few times. I think it was part of a movie soundtrack and that’s why it was so commercially successful.

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