Song 313: The Cars, “All Mixed Up” (1978)

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The first Cars album is ridiculous. Just look at the track listing, which reads like a greatest-hits album. The insane part is that there were so many good songs to come, like “Shake It Up,” “Let’s Go,” “Dangerous Type,” and “Drive.” Some bands just have a million great songs.

In the case of the Cars, they not only had a million great songs, they had a fantastic sound. I love their combination of new-wave synths and dirty guitars (so, apparently, did Weezer, who enlisted Cars frontman Ric Ocasek to produce their own self-titled debut). Given that synths didn’t become more popular until the eighties, I’m always surprised when I remember that this record came out in 1978 (my dad would joke that the release year helped him remember what year my sister was born).

“All Mixed Up” is interesting because it has plenty of the Cars’ pop sense but some of their darkness. The intro alone is like the score of a scary movie (especially since it contains the leftovers from the fade-out of the equally creepy “Living In Stereo”). I also love the way the song uses the chorus as a moment of brightness: the chords turn major, if only for a moment. The fact that the title phrase is repeated over these major chords is ironic. And unsettling.

The Cars released an album a year for four years, an impressive run for any band, but especially for this band, who hardly ever included filler on their records. And each of those records has a consistent energy, a steadfast, pop-sure sense of confidence. Every one of their songs could be called “Let’s Go,” even bleak ones like this.

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