The Cars – The Cars: #464 of best 1,000 albums ever!

The Cars - The Cars

So why is The Cars on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

One very easy observation that I can make about The Cars is that they produce flawless music.

The hooks are perfect, the production pristine, the vibe an exquisite mix of 1970s guitar-driven rock, new wave, and pop. And Ric Ocasek on lead vocals has the perfect mix of charisma and quirky, hipster energy to make it all work.

The reason that the band’s 1978 self-titled debut (that’d be The Cars) is ranked slightly “lower” (spoiler alert!) than Heartbeat City, released in 1984, is mostly because the latter falls more into the wheelhouse of my early years of binge watching MTV.

But let’s get to The Cars, which as noted is simply great from headlights to trunk.

I’ll admit that I was a little surprised that The Cars was released in 1978 because it “feels” more like an early 1980s new wave album. Which I suppose is a way of stating that it really does feel a little ahead of its time, on top of the superlatives I lay on above.

“Just What I Needed” has me right from its chugging, minimalist guitar hook. Note to bands out there: this kind of thing is almost always great… but it helps when you’re as talented as this band, of course. The song builds nicely, layering in keyboard effects, and Ocasek’s restrained performance during the verses leads to an exciting burst of exuberance in the chorus.

“Good Times Roll” is the perfect song to lead off The Cars, letting you know straight off that this isn’t going to be a dissertation on Middle East policy kind of music. This is drive around with your friends after school – or even between classes while you ditch out on fifth period, perhaps – while you seek out adventure and/or comedic misadventures music.  

“My Best Friend’s Girl,” like the album as a whole, is a perfectly constructed rock song. And it helps that it’s a fabulous listen, with great vocal harmonies and a vibe that sails along with seeming effortlessness.

“I’m In Touch With Your World” is a fantastic and off-kilter deep cut. The guitar chords used on this one are just great.

Personal stuff that has something to do with The Cars

I didn’t own a car until after I graduated from high school, if memory serves, so it was always exciting when someone from my crew of friends managed to get a hold of one.

There were a few solid years where we’d head out at night with without any kind of planned agenda. We’d drive around, pick up some friends, see if others were around, and cruise around here or there or anywhere. There was freedom in simply heading around while gabbing about whatever. Often enough we’d end up at the Candlelight Diner in Commack, New York, a 24-hour Greek diner with a massive menu. Coffee and thick steak fries was the standard order there.

Well, and every once in a while we’d drive fast and attempt to “get air” while going over hills on mostly super flat and hill-less Long Island, New York roads. I suppose that worked out for the best.

One more quick anecdote. I worked as a stock boy* at a health food restaurant during high school for a few years. Since I didn’t have a car, I’d often walk to work after high school, and it took me a solid 45 minutes to get there. Sometimes, my friend John would give me a ride… though as with many things in life, this was not a free ride. Indeed, I would pay him a few bucks “for gas” or, alternatively, I’d head into the restaurant, serve myself a fountain soda, and then walk it out to John’s car and hand it to him as payment. Good times.

* Is that still a term people use? Or is it stock person or stock associate or stock broker or some such? I feel like I’m a hundred years old using it here. Oh well…

Some stats & info about The Cars

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Boston Bands, New Wave, Album Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #353
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was The Cars released? 1978
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #464 out of 1,000

The Cars on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from The Cars that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

Let the good times roll, let them knock you around.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.