The New Cars project featuring Todd Rundgren in 2005 was a slight return for the surviving participants of the vaunted New Wave/Synth Pop icons, The Cars, but it was clearly dependent on the fans’ ability to accept Rundgren’s strong creative presence, a distinctive flavor that was almost more suggestive of his work than theirs. Move Like This suffers from no such similar issues, as Ric Ocasek returns to the mic and restores perhaps the single most identifiable characteristic of the Cars’ sonic profile.
From the opening strains of “Blue Tip,” Move Like This plays like a magic radio set to the late ’70s, blaring a station where Candy-O and Heartbeat City and The Cars’ eponymous debut are in constant rotation. From the familiar, propulsive shimmer and handclap Pop of “Sad Song” to the synth balladry of “Soon” to the jerky rhythms and rollicking swagger of “Keep on Knocking,” it’s obvious that The Cars are only this year’s showroom model when Ocasek is at the wheel.
But even Ocasek’s return doesn’t completely resurrect The Cars’ infectious and wildly successful sound on Move Like This. Ben Orr’s vocal absence haunts the band’s sound like a friendly and irreplaceable ghost, and Ocasek and his fellow Cars — guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson — understand implicitly the quality that Orr brought to the group’s dynamic and don’t force their own creative personalities into that unfillable hole. Instead, the musicians concentrate on the juddering New Wave snap that typified Ocasek’s contributions to the band’s singular sound, making Move Like This the best Cars reunion you can have under the circumstances. Grade: B-