Monday, November 13, 2017

New Cars Smell, Take Two

From 2006, please enjoy "Not Tonight" by The New Cars, a song with a slew of hooks, a great guitar solo, funny lyrics and a good beat you can dance to.

Apparently, that wasn't enough in 2006. While the single got some airplay, and the band did get on late night TV, and a tour had begun, though canceled due to Elliot Easton's broken collarbone, The New Cars are mostly remembered with a contemptuous snort. I think Ric Ocasek called for a fatwa on Todd Rundgren, for taking over lead vocals, though apparently Ocasek had no issues with anyone else embarking on this ride. The one record released by The New Cars, which also featured Rundgren sidemen Kasim Sulton and Prairie Prince taking over for the late Ben Orr and retired David Robinson, featured three newly written tunes, and a live set of old Cars favorites. Rundgren did his best Ocasek and the band itself was more than adequate. The record sold a paltry by 2006 standards, 16,000 units.

So why the hate?

Good band, good replacements, good record, great single. Were The Cars so sacred that even the remaining original members, the lead guitarist and keyboardist, both integral to The Cars sound, should be forbidden to create a new project?

Why am I bringing this up almost a dozen years after the fact?

Because I really enjoyed that Elliot Easton solo record and was listening to the first Cars record, which made me think of "Not Tonight," which I hadn't heard since 2006. And it really is a fantastic record. The other two Rundgren/Easton/Hawkes tracks were pretty good, too. I wouldn't have minded one more record out of this band.

I am always fascinated when good music gets criticized for everything but the music itself.


Sal Nunziato said...


Anonymous said...

The track sounds damn good to me. I'm sorry I ignored it back then.

Captain Al

tinpot said...

Disappointed to find no new posting today, so finally listened to "Not Tonight." And it's good! Classic Cars. I have got to remember to trust your taste, Sal.

Gene Oberto said...

I remember when this came out writing to you about how much I liked it. I think we agreed that Todd was only stopping by for a cup of coffee and to pick up a paycheck. Upon listening to the album, I must say that Todd is a one man juke box. Like he did on "Faithful" his uncanny ability to replay a song like the original is nonpareil. It's the Cars but not.
I wonder what makes Todd such a Marmite character? Why is he so polarizing? Could it be that to other artists who take months or years to come up with a song or sound, Todd seems to go over a few run throughs and says, "I got it!" and replays it note for note?

Charlie Messing said...

Great tune, classic Cars sound, thanks! Missed it totally. Todd does great, yes - they all do. Viva le Cars!

buzzbabyjesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buzzbabyjesus said...

Really good, and sounds like a leftover from the first two, but maybe a tad "Faithful".
Todd's mimicry Ric is truly remarkable. If didn't know ahead of time I wouldn't have guessed.

Rick said...

Never would have suspected it wasn't Ric Ocasek if you hadn't mentioned it. Sounds very car-sy. Good song, thanks!

Shriner said...

Now I can actually say: It may have sold better if it was marketed as a new Utopia album ("with Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes from the Cars").

neal t said...

I thought the next new track "Warm" should of been a hit, good point above on the Utopia idea, though they too may not draw folks today

Sal Nunziato said...

But why would Utopia be doing a live Cars set? I Todd and Kas were hired by Greg and Elliot, not the other way around.

Dr Wu said...

Excellent posts on the New Cars (which I recall listening to quite a lot upon its release based upon your recommendation, Sal. As for the Elliot Easton album, I loved it when it came out, but had forgotten about it for many years. Grateful for the reminder. Memories of listening to it alongside the first Cruzados album and Bowie’s ‘Pin Ups’ on the rooftop. That was many years ago. The three remain amazingly solid listens today for me. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sal:

The New Cars shouldn't have had to drive down the gravel road that they did, and I agree with Shriner (above) that it would have been more palatable marketed as a new Utopia album. But The New Cars have grown on me more & more over time.

Growing up in Florida, very little punk or new wave got played on the radio, but The Cars, The Pretenders, and The Clash were the first that manage to break through. So they all have a special place in my heart, and I think my reaction at the time was that without Ric and Benjamin, the band shouldn't be named anything containing "The Cars." As you said, it had very little to do with the music--but with some misplaced loyalty for the bright spot on the dial that The Cars presented in the late 70's.

That said, I'm a gigantic fan of Elliot Easton's guitar playing--going as far as to compile a CD's worth of his best stuff on his great solo album with Jules Shear helping out, as well as his playing on other people's records (Amy Rigby, Ric Ocasek and The Click Five).

- Stinky

P.S. I hope you don't mind me sharing it with you. If you don't want people posting links on your blog, I'm also leaving a comment that leaves off my P.S. and the link. :)

Sal Nunziato said...

To Stinky,

Thanks for the link to the Easton comp. Great!

To Stinky and Shriner,

I agree that "The New Cars" as the name of the project was a bad idea. But I don't understand the concept of promoting it as a Utopia record anymore than calling the Elliot Easton solo record, "Jules Shear." It wasn't a Rundgren project. And I am pretty sure Todd wasn't even originally on board. I think it was Doug Powell. I think Todd wormed his way in for the paycheck, wwhich is why Ocasek had a problem with Todd. Powell got replaced for a bigger name.