Happy Anniversary: The Cars, Panorama

Friday, August 15, 2014
Happy Anniversary: The Cars, Panorama

34 years ago today, The Cars released an album which saw the band stepping outside of their usual sound to try something a little bit different. Was it a creative success? Well, let’s just say the results were a little touch and go at times.

Yeah, we’re not apologizing for that joke. But we’ll at least give you a minute to get that groan out of your system.

The Cars’ self-titled debut album was – and remains – about as good as new-wave rock ‘n’ roll gets, and while the second album, Candy-O, may not be as solid from top to bottom, it’s still a solid album that starts and finishes as strongly as anything in their catalog, thanks to opening with “Let’s Go” and wrapping up with “Dangerous Type.” Listening to Panoram, though, can be somewhat of an eyebrow-raising experience for those expecting straight-ahead upbeat pop tunes, growing increasingly moreso right around the halfway point…or, in other words, it’s probably no coincidence that the album’s three singles – “Touch and Go,” “Gimme Some Slack,” and “Don’t Tell Me No” – are, respectively, the second, third, and fourth songs of the album.

Some have called Panorama a failed experiment, and, okay, so maybe it’s not the most consistent album in their catalog (although, without naming names, it’s also not the least consistent album), but given their commercial success at the time, it’s a credit to Ric Ocasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, Benjamin Orr, and David Robinson that they were more focused on keeping things interesting than keeping things commercial. Plus, let’s not forget that the album still managed to hit #5 on the Billboard Top 200 and went platinum before year’s end. Sure, maybe you could argue that it left fans of the first two albums sufficiently unsatisfied that it caused the band’s next record, Shake It Up, to stop its chart ascent at #9, but...okay, look, if the worst aftereffect of Panorama was that the band got a top-10 album instead of a top-5 album, we’re pretty sure it was worth having taking that creative risk.