PRINT March 1998


Ric Ocasek

I’ve always had a soft spot for RIC OCASEK, the founder and lead singer of the Cars. Actually, two. The first came in the early ’80s from hearing their classics blasting from car stereos and boom boxes when I was a high school misfit. In those days, the ironic detachment of “Good Times Roll,” “Moving In Stereo,” and especially “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” made being an awkward teenager seem defiantly cool, even a little dangerous. Those tunes also offered a bridge to anyone willing to cross from meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n’ roll radio to the forbidden realm of punk and new wave.

The other soft spot came a decade later, while actually listening to the Cars’ 1978 eponymous debut album. I began to appreciate both the streamlined architecture of the songs and the deadpan humor Ocasek conveys in his pinched delivery of lyrics such as “Let them brush your rock ‘n’ roll hair.” It was like rediscovering something as comforting as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but really tasting it for the first time.

Not surprisingly, both the kid and the critic in me adores Ocasek’s return to Cars—like form on Troublizin (Columbia). This album reaffirms that the simple rock ‘n’ roll joys of the Cars are timeless. With help from Billy Corgan (coproducing and sometimes playing guitar), as well as a band featuring Bad Religion guitarist Brian Baker, Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, Nada Surf drummer Ira Elliot, and former Car Greg Hawkes on keyboards, Ocasek lets the good times roll once again—with a little wink, a subtle nudge, and, above all, unabashed rock ‘n’ roll hooks.