Possibly the most polished sounding of all Cars records, this one benefits from the production genius of Mutt Lange. His DNA is all over this release, from the meticulously recorded drums, to vocal effects, and layered guitars. Quite different from other Cars records, but in a good way.
The song list here is pure mid-80s MTV era. These are the singles I heard every day of my youth. Highlights of course are "Magic", "Drive", "You Might Think", etc.
This is a near mint older pressing and it sounds phenomenal. I could not imagine hearing The Cars in any better medium than this. Superb pressing.
Conscious that punk and new wave was fading into obscurity and still stinging from their failed expansion into experimental art rock, The Cars broke with the past on their fifth outing “Heartbeat City”. Having already entered garage and dance-rock territory on “Shake It Up” and attained considerable airplay as a result, The Cars now sought to maximize their pop sensibilities in a bid to reinstate their credibility. Joining forces with Mutt Lange, a sonic reset was in order to fully realize this seemingly insurmountable aim. Lange’s golden touch had worked for other acts looking to improve their commercial prospects. With Lange at the helm, it became clear that the routine Roxy Music and beat poetry influences were not going to be included. By way of elaborate pop-oriented arrangements that optimized multi-tracked vocal harmonies and layered instrumentation, Lange helped Def Leppard and AC/DC to achieve their respective American breakthroughs, but they had to dispense with their scrappiness and take their output and legacy more seriously. Championing power chords, romantic melody and chugging rhythms, Lange’s penchant for style-over-substance elaboration typically precipitated a streamlined, refined and accessible sound, and when applied to chief songwriter and sullen frontman Ric Ocasek’s cold, idiosyncratic foundation replete with sinister undertones, a balance was required. Lange encouraged established punk producer Ocasek to favour programmed electronic instrumentation and thankfully he capitulated, enabling further growth within the band in terms of proficiency and creativity. For a band close to breaking point as The Cars were during the ‘80s, handing over the creative reigns to someone even more single-minded than they were was a welcome distraction and had the unlikely effect of healing said internal strife.
The Cars benefitted greatly from Lange’s ability to capture the essence of an artist whilst adding atypical flourishes and expanding their range. Taking into consideration their constant blending of musical styles, Lange's detailed revamp, utilizing up-to-date equipment, namely sequencers, synth sound effects and a surfeit of dramatic emotion, had the desired effect. Featuring most prominently on “Drive”, a timeless melancholic soft rock masterpiece entirely unaffected by and deserving of its ubiquity, this softer, less detached method and enhanced facility scored the band their first piece of music that possessed enough familiarity, distinction and panache to be received well on a global scale for decades to come. Until “Heartbeat City”, the Cars had endeavoured to effect a record comparable in terms of overall quality to their debut, which was a rare classic album wholly comprised of equally classic songs. Naturally, this pragmatic direction was reflected in the record sales, with the band selling millions as opposed to thousands, thanks to wider exposure to their skittish and glacial compositions. Unaccustomed to punk, power pop and new wave, the MTV generation could not judge the Cars against their previous work, hence why the album sold so well, since its inherently commercial approach meant that it bypassed their usual more discerning and pernickety counterculture audience.
“Heartbeat City” is a testament to all involved that Lange’s fool-proof gloss was not a guarantee for numerous smash hits. Though the band were at the top of their game as musicians, even if they were no longer playing with analogue instruments, they had to put the work in before, during and after the recording process to truly reinvent themselves. Now firmly in the MTV era, Ocasek and co followed the lead of other established mainstream radio stars seeking to remain relevant and appeared in a series of music videos that served to raise their public profile exponentially, with the ground-breaking promo clip for "You Might Think" winning the first MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year and propelling the single to the top of the charts. Between Ocasek’s greatly improved pop songcraft and the increased depth and dimensionality of the instrumentalists’ playing, a more compromised and amiable side of the band emerged. Unfortunately, the spark of spirit awoken by Mutt Lange's blood, sweat and tears was short-lived, and the massive approval they gained in 1984 quickly dwindled. The album they collaboratively created was, after all, as much an exceptional tour de force as "Back In Black" or "Hysteria". Like those albums, listeners are treated to something different as it takes shape and unfolds. In the midst of the album, jolts of catharsis and pathos occur before flowing freely through the remaining songs, actualizing a cohesive listening experience and demarcating it from any other Cars or Lange production. Appreciated for their newfound embracing of pleasurable, dynamic and dreamy qualities by the masses, some long-time fans were unable to reconcile the Cars’ quirky, cynical cool and steely mysticism with the multi-tracked flash and polished poignancy contained herein. As evidenced by Ocasek and Orr’s interchangeable crooning delivery of alternately warm and neurotic lyrics, the Cars had tamed their artier tendencies in a bid to broaden their audience, and it paid huge dividends for a brief period. Spawning five singles, three of which reached the top 20, the magnificent “Heartbeat City” solidified the Boston quartet’s creative evolution.
Fully capable of downright destroying those it truly resonates with, the abundant lushness, arch romanticism and moody atmosphere of the sophisticated contents may very well be an unadulterated and utterly calculated approximation of the highly profitable Mutt Lange formula, but when the result is as convincing and compelling as this, only stunted followers of what the band originally produced could possibly recoil in horror. Any band able to tie together such an utterly intoxicating amalgamation of mellifluent AOR, art rock-fashioned rockabilly and tightly-wound synth-pop as this exuberant and exhilarating set of unabashedly convoluted productions deserves all the praise that can be given by critics and fans alike. As well-crafted and packed with air guitar anthems and stirring balladry as Def Leppard’s “Hysteria”, which ‘80s music enthusiasts tend to value as the watershed mainstream rock album of the era, “Heartbeat City” is a slightly different beast, not simply because it emerged first or took far less time to record. Unlike “Hysteria”, or “Pyromania” for that matter, the songs are more literate, cerebral and surprisingly diverse. For every modern take on the breezy, jangly new wave form such as “Hello Again,” "Looking For Love," “You Might Think,” and “Magic”, there is an atmospheric curveball such as the stunning title track, ethereal "It's Not the Night" and “Stranger Eyes”, not to mention the haunting “Drive”, all of which render “Heartbeat City” as distinctive and characteristic as the group’s career-defining debut. Strangely hypnotic, hugely enjoyable and deeply powerful when absorbed as a single unit, this neglected pop touchstone unquestionably deserves to be held in such high esteem as the aforementioned iconic chart-topper. However, with only “Drive” receiving regular airplay on contemporary TV and radio, the album in its entirety will probably never recover the prevalence it had in 1984, which is a travesty if ever there was one, considering this is one of the most flawlessly performed and immaculately produced records of all-time.
My copy has these runout IDs : Side A etched / Sterling and SRC Logo stamped): ST-E-60296-A-6 1-3 SMI-2 Sterling SRC Logo. Side B etched / Sterling and SRC stamped): ST-E-60296-B-6 1-3 SM1-1 Sterling SRC Logo but NO E A S T embossed on Side B label. Have not found any other copies with those exact runouts so I'm thinking I could / should list it under this pressing? Vinyl, LP, Album, Specialty Records Pressing 1984