This reissue opens up the soundstages, decongests the low frequencies, and shines a spotlight on Mutt Lange's pinpoint balances and glossy hooks. Indeed, the now-household-name producer would make a lasting mark with Heartbeat City, whose radio-friendly sound, multi-layered textures, and smooth, suave, synth-heavy pulses set a precedent for the period's hit-making pop.
Overflowing with a surfeit of finger-snapping beats, electro-pop effects, streamlined guitar notes, and bright melodies, Heartbeat City trades in efficiency, catchiness, and to-the-point craftiness. Unlike most mid-80s records, the electronic effects and sleek tonalities aren't dated due to both the focused production and irresistible songwriting. Leader Ric Ocasek penned all ten tunes, and while a mind-boggling five charted in the Top 40, what makes Heartbeat City such a staple is the fact that it's easy to imagine every song on it crashing the Billboard Hot 100. Call it the new-wave version of Thriller.
Indeed, the record's track list automatically triggers a mental jukebox. The spare simplicity and hopefulness of "Magic." The simultaneously sad longing and soothing somberness of the Benjamin Orr-sung "Drive." The shimmer and shuffling riff of "You Might Think." The ping-pong bounce and futuristic paranoia of "Hello Again." The atmospheric, arty title track. Heartbeat City is a veritable lesson in pop tunesmithship.