Like the transportation industry, the music industry has suffered an energy crisis lately. And like the auto companies, the record companies have put out a new wave of stripped-down models. A best seller in this line has been The Cars, who appeared at the Capital Centre last night.

But like some of the auto industry's so-called economy models, many of the music industry's new-wave acts have been modified only cosmetically. Such is the case of The Cars.

The band's best feature is Ric Ocasek, the tallest, skinniest rock star in memory. As a singer and song-writer, he often sounds like Lou Reed singing the Buddy Holly songbook, as if cynicism were wrestling with idealism. Last night Ocasek's rhythm guitar was the only instrument played with real purpose or discipline.

The Cars seemed out of tune and rattled and clanked with second hand heavy-metal parts. Greg Hawkes' synthesizer noddling was a real energy drainer, as were Elliot Easton's guitar solos. The band shifted into high gear for only a few songs -- most notably "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Let's Go." For most of the show they stayed stuck in low with the same guitar chords grinding like gears and indulgent solos eating up gas.