Back in the 80s I liked the Cars’ sound so naturally I checked out co-lead singer Ric Ocasek’s solo career. Beatitude was his first solo album. It has a synth-pop veneer with some dark undercurrents. There’s a weird, queasy feeling to the record. The cover image sums it up, sort of a cool, hazy, late night day-glo urban decay.
One of the great things about Ocasek has always been his vocal delivery, dry, laconic and with a perfect sense of timing. There’s an obvious Lou Reed influence to his vocal inflections but on this album the instrumentation around his vocals is totally different to Lou’s.
I don’t know that listeners now would be able to hear how out of place the sounds and feelings in this album were at the time. This record was produced by Ocasek. There are various other musicians on it including Greg Hawkes from the Cars but it feels very solitary and alone, it almost feels like a demo. It has a similar sound to the Cars but it’s more stripped down, austere and artificial. There’s a menthol like coldness even when it is light and airy but the coldness suits the songs. The whole album has a unified sound and a good sense of movement from song to song. This record sounds so plastic, rigid and sterile but the thing is that it works and that’s always the litmus test for any album.
In 2005 Ric Ocasek recorded Nexterday and though it was a far more guitar driven album somehow it felt like a return to the same solitary, neon glow world that Beatitude inhabited. Now he’s returned to the Cars and they’ve recorded a new album. It’s almost like the process of recording Beatitude was Ric’s first tentative steps away from the band and Nexterday in some strange way charted his first steps back to it.