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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : VINTAGE CARS

September 06, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

* * "DOOR TO DOOR." The Cars. Elektra. The good news is that the best songs on the Boston-based hitmakers' latest LP could have fit fine on the band's 1978 debut--still the Cars' strongest effort, with its spunky new-wave tunes that at the time seemed refreshing additions to the stolid pop charts. That's also the bad news: There's little evidence of any kind of progress here.

The worst news is that material even up to the level of the now-ancient debut is in very short supply. In fact, the first three cuts provide leader Ric Ocasek's full range of writing and the band's total personality: "Leave or Stay" is a bouncy rocker with romantically ambivalent lyrics and Greg Hawkes' silly synthesizer sounds; "You Are the One" is frothy, mindless pop; "Double Trouble" offers a vaguely ominous, brooding tone. Nearly everything else is either a lesser variation on those themes or a drippy, characterless ballad.

As usual, there's little sign of Ocasek's reputed intellectual experimentalism, a little of which surfaced on his solo album last year. Only the two side-closers, "Ta Ta Wayo Wayo" and the title song, get enough of a good rockin' head of steam going to transcend what long ago became a tired formula.

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