Panorama, released in 1980, was the Cars third album. Going for a more “experimental” sound, the album met with some mixed reviews but nonetheless sold quite well. Personally, it wouldn’t be the Cars album I would start with. But it’s what I was assigned. So off we go…
With this album, the Cars definitely did take a giant step back – with the cover art, at least. Go look up the covers for their self-titled debut and Candy-O. Pretty girl, visually appealing. Now look again at Panorama’s cover. Just a checkered flag – no girls, no cars. Trying something different is understandable but again… it’s just a flag.
But enough blustering about the cover, how about the music? Well I found the songs to straddle between “really good” and “okay, but tedious”. So while none of the them had me rolling my eyes, and ultimately I may get used to some of the weaker tracks with subsequent listens, I did find myself getting a bit bored at times.
Of the ten tracks, four of them would make it into my “Ultimate Cars Playlist”, if and when I ever make one. “Panorama”, the opening track, is an amusing bit of ‘laid back insanity’ with the computerized beat and robotic vocals – instantly fun. “Touch and Go”, the album’s lone single, sounds fine with its brooding synth that kicks into a jaunty pluck and twang. Equally enjoyable was “You Wear Those Eyes” with lyrics describing an unhealthy love obsession song against a bed of hauntingly beautiful electronic melodies. Finally, the upbeat pop sounds of “Running To You” was playful and catchy. Why it wasn’t released as a single is baffling.
The other entries, such as “Gimme Some Slack”, “Don’t Tell Me No” and “Getting Through” are interesting enough to warrant a listen but proved forgettable. And by the time I finished “Misfit Kid”, “Down Boys” and “Up and Down”, I began to think The Cars were listening to too much Devo. Not quite an imitation but definitely heard some strong inspiration.
Like the reviews, I was “mixed” on this album as well. It’s an essential part of their catalog, no doubt, but a few too many ‘throwaways’ precludes it from making any of my ‘desert island’ lists. Yet, I’d hate to give up the handful of songs I love, so if it stowed itself away in my luggage for my trip to some remote sandy shore, I wouldn’t be too upset.