The Cars - Drive b/w Stranger Eyes

The Cars
Drive b/w Stranger Eyes

Released 1984 on Elektra
Reviewed by Lawrence, 21/05/2015ce

I arguably think this was the Cars' finest moment, in spite of how the title ties in with the band-name. This was from an album called Heartbeat City which mostly seemed a refinement of their brand of meticulously-crafted pop-rock. This time drafting in a producer known for his work with AC/DC (Mutt Lange) -- although who also did some more cutting-edge work with bands like the Boomtown Rats and Foreigner. The band were at the top of their game at that point, becoming even more popular than ever thanks to MTV and better production.

But "Drive" was a pretty unusual song even for the Cars. It was sung by Benjamin Orr but was written by Ric Ocasek, although this song runs a bit deeper emotionally than anything else on the album or pretty much anything they did up until this. The Yamaha DX7 would feature more prominently here in a layered approach, although Mutt Lange did a good job modulating that instrument so the song didn't wind up as harsh-sounding as it does on many of the mid-80s hits it was featured in. The high-gloss finish reminds me of alot of modern art at the time -- Frank Stella comes to mind here (maybe...) Although also there seems to be a bit of Suicide's minimalism running through the whole song. (Of course Ric has been Suicide's producer a couple of times...)

But for all that the Cars were trying to do concerning the creation of some kind of musical answer to Pop Art, the lyrics on this song seem to be about something much more tragic than Ric Ocasek himself would even allow. It appears to be about a relationship with someone who has some sort of dependency issue, maybe involving drugs or alcohol or something involving mental illness. (Believe me I've been in the same situation so I can relate.) I have to say this is the first time this band, as good as they were from the beginning, ever made anything this emotionally gripping. Dunno if they tried the same approach again before they split up and reformed again...

So anyways I'm sure "Drive" was indeed the masterpiece that Ric Ocasek always wanted to write, and he succeeded quite brilliantly. It was well worth the five-album wait.

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