Boston’s The Cars are arguably the quintessential New Wave band, combining the back-to-basics approach of punk, forward thinking synthesiser textures, and bright power pop melodies. It’s not difficult to see influences from art rockers David Bowie and Roxy Music in the detached presence of front-man Ric Ocazek and in the sleek, futuristic textures, but The Cars were able to package these ideas to the mainstream. The group’s initial tenure lasted from 1978’s self-titled debut until 1987’s Door To Door, although this 13 song compilation only covers the period until 1984’s mega-selling Heartbeat City. Ocazek is joined by keyboardist Greg Hawkes, who provides the futuristic synth sounds, while Elliot Easton provides the snappy guitar breaks. Drummer David Robinson previously played with the Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison in Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers, while bassist Ben Orr steps up to the microphone when the group need a more sincere vocal; while Ocazek wrote all the songs, he graciously and judiciously allowed Orr to front the big hits ‘Just What I Needed’ and ‘Drive’.
The selections from the first two albums are mostly high energy rock and roll, with particular highlights in ‘Just What I Needed’ and ‘Let’s Go’ from 1979’s Candy-O. The experimental ‘Touch And Go’ from 1980’s Panorama feels out of place on a hits compilation, but the selections from 1981’s Shake It Up are more accessible, with the hooky ‘Since You’re Gone’ and the pretty ‘I’m Not The One’. 1984’s Heartbeat City provides the mega ballad ‘Drive’ and the synth-driven power pop of ‘Magic’, while there’s one strong new song in ‘Tonight She Comes’. Greatest Hits is an excellent one stop shopping solution for a clever band.