"Sad Song"

It's as if they never left. "Sad Song" — the lead single from Move Like This, the Cars' first studio album in 24 years — opens with a rolling-machine groove that sparkles like 1978's "My Best Friend's Girl" with a fresh coat of chrome. But the Cars — especially singer-guitarist Ric Ocasek — were a deceptively dark ride, with a bleak undertow in Ocasek's songwriting and the band's sleek, noirish minimalism. "Too many clowns saying everything's all right . . . too many preachers saying what you should find," Ocasek sings, with stoic irritation, over the controlled cruise of drummer David Robinson, guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboard player Greg Hawkes. The chorus, in turn, is explosive irony. "It's just a sad song/It moves along," Ocasek promises as the band climbs and accelerates. The late singer-bassist Ben Orr would have brought extra sunlight in the harmonies. But in every other way, the Cars have pulled out of the garage in renewed vintage form.

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From The Archives Issue 1127: March 31, 2011