Late April, 1983. An Australian band which had burst into the public consciousness of a U.S. audience with their previous record releases a follow-up, hopeful to continue and expand that level of success.
I’m reasonably certain this is the last time I’ll be able to use the preceding sentence during this year’s project. Reasonably. The previous two were on purpose, this one didn’t occur to me until I skimmed the spreadsheet weeks afterward and realized what I’d done with this pick.
What is it?
Cargo is the 1983 sophomore-effort album by Men At Work, the band best known for the hits “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?” from their debut album, Business as Usual, two years prior.
How does it sound?
Believe the sampler mix will eventually survive:
Why this pick?
Men At Work were, in a way, the Platonic Ideal of the early-1980s pop-rock band. They made reasonably catchy 4/4-time radio-friendly light-duty rock-n-roll songs. Of the three albums they created, Cargo is far and away the strongest.
Which songs are the highlights?
The album kicks off with the whimsical and delightful “Dr Heckyll & Mr Jive.” Yes, I very much adore a song which includes the lyrics, “He loves the world, except for all the people.”
Speaking of upbeat radio-friendly fare, both “It’s A Mistake” and “High Wire” fit the bill nicely, thank you. The latter features the other snippet of lyric from this album that I’m often prone to quoting: “I may be an idiot but indeed I am no fool.”
My favorite song on the record by far is “No Sign of Yesterday.” It’s a weird thing for me because usually I’m all about the upbeat higher-energy stuff. Yet here’s this unrelentingly melancholy piece with a six point five minute run time that hits me right in the soul. Go figure, eh?
Finishing off the album is “No Restrictions,” another solidly enjoyable tune.
Which songs don’t work so well?
Every now and then the band would let someone other than Colin Hay sing lead, and the results are a lot like what happened when The Police put someone other than Sting on the microphone: A sense that something’s off. That’s mainly the problem with “Settle Down My Boy.” Hay shows up for some backing lines and all I can think is, “Couldn’t we have, you know, let him sing the whole thing?” This applies doubly for “I Like To,” which a delightful and spectacular bridge section just can’t save, unfortunately.
“Blue for You” is a basically torch song; you may recall how I feel about those.
Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?
It would’ve been the debut album, which I mostly enjoy in spite of the general ubiquity of “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under.” You can’t really go wrong with acquiring either or both of these albums, honestly.
I’ve never seen anything nice said about the band’s third album, Two Hearts, so I figure that’s best left alone.
Any final thoughts?
Not all of the bands make the distance. A lot of what’s on my CD shelf (and in my digital library) is the work of long-term successful artists and acts. Sometimes, though, all you get is one or two solid records and that’s that.
In this case I consider that a shame because the world could’ve used more catchy, clever pieces sung by Colin Hay, I’m thinkin’.