After releasing a debut album that was considered perfect, packed with hits from beginning to end, the Cars faced an interesting dilemma on Candy-O. Should they make an exact replica and rake in the bucks? Or fool with the formula just enough to keep it interesting (while still emptying the tillers)? Working again with producer Roy Thomas Baker, the band wrote an almost entirely new batch of songs that captured the same pop highs as The Cars while sounding different in some important ways. The group were a little unhappy with how slick their debut sounded so they asked Baker to dial back the stacked vocals and make sure there was a little dirt in the machine. He did this while still capturing the band's pop essence, which the group made easy by cranking out almost as many timelessly great songs as they did on their debut, whether it was the punchy title track, the hard-rocking AOR radio staple "Dangerous Type," or the intensely fun "Let's Go." They also wrote some rollicking pop gems; "Since I Held You" and "It's All I Can Do" are a one-two punch of melancholy hooks, achingly honest vocals, and brilliant production that any band of the era would be elated to call their own. To go along with the good-time rockers and melodic tunes, they took a couple left turns with the robotic "Double Life" and Suicide tribute "Shoo Be Doo," cranked out some very solid synth-heavy new wave on "Night Spots" and "Lust for Kicks," and a couple fun rockers like "Got Lot on My Head" and "You Can't Hold on for Too Long." Candy-O is the rare follow-up to a classic debut that almost reaches the same rarified air. Throw in one more absolute classic hit single and it would have been there. As it stands, it may be one of the best second albums ever made, full of great songs, inspired performances, and sporting a still-perfect sound. If this had been the Cars' debut album, people might consider it a classic. Coming after The Cars, it has to be rated a little lower, but not by much.
by Tim Sendra