Shake It Up (Expanded)

Shake It Up (Expanded)

After two blockbuster albums that certified The Cars as America’s most successful New Wave band, the group churned out 1980’s Panorama—an offbeat effort that was light on hooks, and largely ignored by radio stations. On 1981’s Shake It Up, though, the group was suddenly back on the racetrack. The peppy, simplistic title became the band’s biggest hit to date, with a frisky solo from guitarist Elliot Easton, and tricky keyboard runs from Greg Hawkes (Ocasek later admitted he wasn’t proud of the song’s lyrics). For much of the album—the band’s fourth in as many years—Ocasek sounds adrift. On Shake It Up, The Cars are neither the well-oiled pop machine that made their first two albums, nor the scholarly experimentalists who made Panorama a year earlier. The music has plenty of wonderful touches, but it feels distant, and even Ocasek’s characteristic ambivalence about love lacks its usual bite. Still, there are a few pleasures to be found on Shake It Up: The weird synth sounds at the start of the hip-swiveling “Think It Over”; Easton’s twangy guitar lick in “Victim of Love”; the discount rhythm machine that introduces “Since You’re Gone”; and the headlong rockabilly energy of “Think It Over,” sung by bassist Benjamin Orr. But such moments are fleeting. Shake It Up is the first time The Cars sound directionless.

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