Sure, looking through the jaded eyes of twenty years later, it's easy to diss the Cars as a glam pop band from the dreaded eighties. Too easy.
The truth of the matter is the Cars were a band so important in the evolution of rock that their influence still permeates today's pop landscape. What Ric Ocasek and the late Benjamin Orr did, along with bandmates Elliot Easton, David Robinson and Greg Hawkes, was take white bread pop, add a dash of German cabaret and infuse it all with a punk sensibility. As a result, their sound became the standard by which rock throughout the eighties was judged.
Then, too, was their look-- the Cars took full advantage of the burgeoning influence of video in the pop culture arena. They didn't wear matching outfits, but they were color-coordinated, almost always wearing varying degrees of black, white, red and blue. Ocasek, invariably hiding behind Ray-Bans, looked like a demented Ichabod Crane, playing off the teen idol looks of Orr, the nerdy persona of Hawkes, and the beatnik hipster facades of Easton and Robinson. Combined, they presented an image of unified aloofness that struck a chord in the pop music world. Imitators came out of the woodwork, none of whom could muster more than one hit wonder stature.
The Cars Unlocked is an unbiased, non-linear look at the Cars, from the perspective of their live performances. Moving back and forth between performances from 1978 through 1987, the DVD shows the band's evolution from club gigs to sold-out stadium concerts. That the video clips are largely left "as is" makes this documentary more enticing, in an odd way. There's been no attempt to digitally enhance ancient VHS footage, which lends it more historical credence. There are amusing backstage tidbits here, too — particularly a segment entitled "Dr. G," in which a supposed rock journalist for the Denver Post makes an utter ass of himself with his pretensious, chemically-inspired interview approach.