The Cars: Heartbeat City

The Cars: Heartbeat City

Mobile Fidelity  UDSACD 2163

Stereo Hybrid


The Cars

1984 will always be remembered for the debut of the Macintosh computer, the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and the ascent of MTV as the most powerful cultural medium of the era. The year is also recognized for the Cars’ savvy contributions not only to the burgeoning music-video channel but to pop itself. Released in April, the four-times platinum Heartbeat City would ultimately spawn five Top 40 singles—four of them landing in the Top 20, two in the Top 10—and serve as the final memorable record from the Boston group, which would disband in 1987.

Mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s numbered limited edition SACD of Heartbeat City revisits the landmark album via a rich fidelity unmatched by any prior digital edition. Signifying the first time the set has been available on vinyl in nearly three decades, this reissue opens up the soundstages, decongests the low frequencies, and shines a spotlight on Mutt Lange’s pinpoint balances and glossy hooks. Indeed, the now-household-name producer would make a lasting mark with Heartbeat City, whose radio-friendly sound, multi-layered textures, and smooth, suave, synth-heavy pulses set a precedent for the period’s hit-making pop.

Overflowing with a surfeit of finger-snapping beats, electro-pop effects, streamlined guitar notes, and bright melodies, Heartbeat City trades in efficiency, catchiness, and to-the-point craftiness. Unlike most mid-80s records, the electronic effects and sleek tonalities here aren’t dated due to both the focused production and irresistible songwriting. Leader Ric Ocasek penned all ten tunes, and while a mind-boggling five charted in the Top 40, what makes Heartbeat City such a staple is the fact that it’s easy to imagine every song on it crashing the Billboard Hot 100. Call it the new-wave version of Thriller.

Indeed, the record’s track list automatically triggers a mental jukebox. The spare simplicity and hopefulness of “Magic.” The simultaneously sad longing and soothing somberness of the Benjamin Orr-sung “Drive.” The shimmer and shuffling riff of “You Might Think.” The ping-pong bounce and futuristic paranoia of “Hello Again.” The atmospheric, arty title track. Heartbeat City is a veritable lesson in pop tunesmithship.

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Analogue recording
1. Hello Again
2. Looking for Love
3. Magic
4. Drive
5. Stranger Eyes
6. You Might Think
7. It’s Not the Night
8. Why Can’t I Have You
9. I Refuse
10. Heartbeat City
Comments (1)

Comment by Downunderman - September 3, 2016 (1 of 1)

Another radio ready production from the Mutt and having played the old CD version in the car this morning I can say Mutt was no slouch in the radio ready department. It sounded great.

This SACD version sounds excellent too, but different of course. Played on hi rez home equipment you get the excellent soundstage and all the definition you could want.

This title was remastered for a gold CD by AF a few years back and there were some grumbles from the cognoscenti about the tracks no longer segueing into each other. According to AF at the time, they had decided to prioritise the use of the best sonic sources for the individual tracks.

This SACD segues tracks the same as the original CD issue. Not having heard the AF remaster I can't comment on where it sits in relation to the SACD.

Also of note is the cover art work for the SACD. The name of the band plus the album title has been removed from the top of the front cover and placed on the side of the back cover. A fidelity issue of another kind!