Friday, August 14, 2015

The Cars - Panorama

This month marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Panorama, the third studio album from the Cars. This Platinum seller from 1980 went to number 19 in Australia, number 14 in New Zealand, and number 5 on the US Billboard Album chart. It spent a total of twenty-eight weeks on the Billboard chart.

Side one starts with the title track. "Panorama", while not a single, did have a music video shot for it. This love song of sorts opens with a punchy beat and features a prominent new-wave synth sound blended with rocking guitars. Finally, a vocoder is used to alter the sound of the song's title on the chorus.

"Touch and Go", the first single, reached number 62 in Australia, number 42 in New Zealand, number 37 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 16 in Canada, and number 2 in France. I am actually surprised seeing the chart history as I thought the song did a lot better here in the US; I recall hearing it a lot but that might have been over on the local album-oriented rock and college radio stations. I like the catchy rhythm as well as the "uh-oh-oh" part of the chorus.

The third single "Gimme Some Slack" hit the charts in early 1981. It is more guitar-oriented than the first two tracks, harkening back to the band's first two albums.

"Don't Tell Me No" was released as the second single; it charted at number 9 in Canada. The lyrics come from a very spoiled and privileged position; the speaker clearly is used to getting whatever he wants. By the same token, he almost gets off on his lover telling him "no". It gives the song a dark and twisted edge.

"Getting Through" has a throw-back sound to the early days of rock and roll thanks to the rapid-fire guitar chords. The lyrics are even sprinkled with classics like "party doll" and "the great pretender". The video-game sounding synth spurts midway through are a nice surprise; I was all about the arcade games and my Atari 2600 back in 1980.

Side two opens with "Misfit Kid", a song about youthful self-discovery.

The driven "Down Boys" was chosen as the B-side to the first single. I like the song's sense of tension that ends in a big explosion.

Things slow down with the more focused "You Wear Those Eyes". It opens like one Laurie Anderson's spoken word pieces before easing into a lovely and intriguing melody.

"Running to You" has a devil-may-care attitude both in lyrics and in music. Again, we have another very new-wave song. I do like the keyboard solo on the bridge.

Things close out with up-tempo "Up and Down". The pounding percussion and the eager guitars give the piece a very frantic vibe.

While I did not own a copy of Panorama back in the 80's, I did pick it up digitally a number of years back when the major labels were available, for a time, on emusic. The Cars had such fixed run during that period so I was readily motivated to fill out those first five albums. With each listen to it, I find more and more that I like about the record. So far, side one easily overshadows side two. Because of the lack of many hits, I suspect it is one of the overlooked pieces in the Cars' catalog.

For more from the Cars, click here.

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