Thursday, 12 August 2010

Men at Work: Business As Usual (1982); Men at Work: Cargo (1983)



I bought these two albums when they were first released, and I was callow and had no taste whatsoever. Men at Work were, momentarily, huge, you know. In fact I seem to remember I bought both of them on one cassette, the 1982 debut title on side A, the 1983 follow-up on side B. But then the early 80s passed away, and I became slightly less callow, and developed the impeccable taste for which I am so well known today. I chucked this band, together with a huge quantity of the stuff of my life, into the backward abysm of time, where they were not missed. I hadn't listened to them, or so much as thought about them, in nearly three decades.

Then, on a whim, I downloaded them both recently. Listening to them again, I was surprised by how good they sounded ... very of their time, of course; very much an Australian poppy-newwavey Police-alike. But strong, memorable, hooky pop songs. I don't so much mean the group's big hit, 'Down Under', which jars unpleasantly in my ears after all this time, but tracks like 'Who Could It Be Now?', 'I Can See It In Your Eyes', 'It's a Mistake', 'Dr Heckyll and Mr Jive'. Pleasant, in damn-with-faint-praise fashion. Except, except, I had forgotten 'Overkill'.

How could I have done this? What an extraordinary song. Surely one of the genuinely great pop singles of its decade: melodically inventive, expressive and earwormy counterpointing a frankly amazing lyric about the day-to-day irrational anxieties that plague most of us. Civilisation and its Discontents with a drum machine. Brilliant.

On the other hand ... the cover art to those two albums makes manifest a special category of Suck. What were they thinking?

10 comments:

MEStaton said...

I loved those albums, it's been years since I listened to them seriously. Yet, I too had both cardboard delectibilities in my collection. There is a lot of flack thrown at eighties pop and like any era there was tons of crap, but actually there was a lot of great stuff in the new-wave/ska/dub-rock collective. Not too mention hillarious outfits and poor, but equally amusing, choices in colour combination.

Al R said...

I remember enjoying those albums quite a bit at the time, esp. "Down by the sea".

Off to have a rummage through my tape collection...

While we're on 80s albums by bands beginning with "Men..." I've always had a sly admiration for the first "Men Without Hats" album.

Adam Roberts said...

Al: I refer you to these two tweets.

http://twitter.com/arrroberts/status/20970746432

http://twitter.com/arrroberts/status/20970859191

Al R said...

Ha!

marco said...

While we're on 80s albums by bands beginning with "Men...

... I must say that I'm not usually a great fan of these kind of poppy new wavey sounds, but I love MENtal as Anything's "Creatures of Leisure".

Al R said...

Well, I've just unearthed my C90 cassette of the first two (possibly only two) Men at Work albums - the tape's at least 22 - 24 years old and I doubt that it's been played once in the last 20 years, and yet it still sounded crystal-clear, without a trace of distortion. I even used a typewriter to print "Men at Work" on the cassette spine.

If anyone stills plays tapes, and you want a CD/MP3 player that still has a cassette deck, don't hang around - they're getting very rare now.

Marco: Not to knock them or anything, but I don't recall Mental as Anything making much of an impact in the UK.

marco said...

All the more reason to re-discover them now!

涛子 said...

很棒很期待新的內容............................................................

Beloved Snail said...

I don't have Cargo anymore, but I still listen to the first album quite a bit. This band produced some really nice pop.

David Duffy said...

Men at Work are currently famous again after losing the court case about whether that flute bit in _Down Under_ sounded too much like _Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree_