Picks and Pans Review: Fireball Zone

updated 08/19/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/19/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ric Ocasek

This new album by the Cars' driving force, Ocasek, has just about everything you might require. An eye-catching cover design, for example. Catchy rock tunes, of course. In fact, there's really only one thing wrong.

The record should have been closed-captioned for the Ocasek impaired.

His lyrics are so obtuse, you need an interpreter, if not a decoder ring, to translate them. It's nice to see a performer trying to write something beyond "Oooh, baby baby," but what is the meaning of, say, these lines in "Rockaway": "On the raceway/ It's a touché/ Violet stingray/ You got to get out"? Or how about "Dancin' by the sea stars/ Shaking up a shirt/ Throw away your language/ Keep from getting hurt," from "Flowers of Evil"?

This isn't meant to imply Fireball Zone doesn't sound good. As he proved with the Cars, Ocasek can strike a fine balance between melodic pop and driving rock. And here he avoids the moody, synthesizer-driven art rock that made his previous solo albums sputter. Such songs as "Rockaway" (lyrical Sanskrit aside) and "Come Back" are especially Top 40 friendly.

The music here encourages you to sing along. Too bad that much of the time you end up sounding like some sort of space-alien beat poet when you try to chime in. (Reprise)

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