New Wave’s back. Only this time it’s not the creation of 20-something nostalgia for a time before their birth or the moody Joy Division-inspired gloom they try to reenact. Ric Ocasek has reunited the remaining original members of the Cars for a fieldtrip through time, finally putting the Todd Rundgren-fronted rehash found in The New Cars’ 2006 live release It’s Alive in the trashbin. Ocasek and co. sound so much like they did when they last released music 24 years ago, it could be mistaken for a lost album. The rubbery rhythms, irrepressible hooks, and canny mix of guitars and synths that have inspired countless acts (Weezer, They Might Be Giants) are here in spades. Ocasek’s inimitable staggered croon is in fine form abetted by great melodies and strong harmonies. Self-produced with help from Jacknife Lee (Weezer, Bloc Party), the music’s so strong its 10 tracks breeze by with nary a misstep. “Soon” is a lingering keyboard-driven ballad reminiscent of their biggest pop hit, “Drive,” but it’s not even the best track. That distinction belongs to “Sad Song,” whose crisp riff-driven opening recalls “Best Friend’s Girl,” complete with handclaps, or “Keep On Knocking,” the particularly muscular, infectious ode to rebellion. If only every reunion worked this well.
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