Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Men At Work - Cargo (1983)

Released: June 28, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Peter McIan
Peak on the US Billboard 200: 3

Side One Side Two
Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive
Settle Down My Boy
Upstairs in My House
No Sign of Yesterday
It's a Mistake
High Wire
Blue for You
I Like To
No Restrictions

 Charted singles: Hot 100 ACRock
 Overkill 363
 It's a Mistake 61027
 Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive 28
 High Wire


It's a rare occasion when I mostly agree with the critics, but here we go:

No sophomore slump here. In fact, I like this album better than the band's 1982 debut, Business as Usual.  Even so, it took me a few years before I had my own copy of this one.  Before that, I simply dubbed a cassette copy from my friend Scott's LP.  Like the first album, Cargo consists of a few obvious singles and some obvious filler, but the filler on Cargo is better even though the overall atmosphere is quite a bit moodier.  I listened to it quite a bit back in high school and even came across this Cargo pinback that probably appeared on my jacket collar at some point in 1983.

In Rolling Stone 394, Christopher Connelly gave the album a ★★★½ rating, writing "song for song, it is a stronger overall effort than Business as Usual" while calling it "foot-tapping fun."  Over at allmusic, Erlewine gives it ★★★★½ but writes a ★★ review (the word "embarrassing" is used), so I can't figure out exactly what he thinks about this album.  Christgau gave it a B, and I'm ok with that.

  • Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive:  This isn't Colin Hay's best effort in terms of lyrics, but the music has its fair share of hooks.  I'm guessing that the half-time feel on the chorus is the "Mr. Jive" in contrast to the verses' "Dr. Heckyll."  Or vice versa.  Whatever.  No idea what's going on in the bridge.
  • Overkill:  Easily my favorite song the album. As I previously mentioned here, this is "a great song that got a lot of playing time in my car in 1983.  Of course, I would sing along and when Colin Hay sings the last verse up an octave, I would try to keep up with often hilarious results.  Love the guitar solo."
  • Settle Down My Boy: rather rudimentary songwriting, which means it's easy to sing along to, which means it doesn't get skipped.  Bonus points for the sax solo, which reminds me of Sonny Rollins' work on the Stones' "Waiting for a Friend." Not enough sax on this album for my tastes.
  • Upstairs in My House: The verse is pretty good, but the driving chorus is even better.  I like the rhythm guitar part that alternates between choppy and smooth.  And another nice guitar solo.
  • No Sign of Yesterday:  Yawn.  This one never gets where you think its going to go, so go ahead and flip the album over.
  • It's a Mistake:  That upbeat stuff doesn't quite make it as reggae, does it?  No matter.  The lyrics remind us of what it was like living during the Cold War.  Yet another fantastic guitar solo, which builds slowly over a smooth, arpeggiated rhythm part that is in direct contrast to the heavy syncopation of the earlier parts of the song.
  • High Wire: Love the honking horn accompaniment underneath hooks a'plenty.  Everything works on this one for me - the vocal harmonies, the sax solo over heavy hi-hat, the syncopated verse playing against the smooth chorus.
  • Blue for You: A simple, very singable song that comes closer to reggae than "It's A Mistake."  Of all the music of this album, this catchy love song will be the one that's stuck in my head all day.
  • I Like To: The song isn't that great, but the guitar-heavy arrangement helps it a bit.  There's just too many lyrics and guitar solo notes to try to fit into this, making it anxious and manic (maybe that's the point?).  The chorus is much better than the verse and that's ultimately what you take from this one.
  • No Restrictions: In which Colin and the boys do their best to sound like The Police ca. 1979 and fail.

  1. Overkill
  2. It's a Mistake
  3. High Wire
  4. Upstairs in My House
  5. Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive
  6. Blue for You
  7. I Like To
  8. Settle Down My Boy
  9. No Restrictions
  10. No Sign of Yesterday

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