Men At Work

Business As Usual (Columbia ’82) Rating: B+
These Australians enjoyed a brief period when they were in vogue (heck this album was a blockbuster at the time). To me they will always be a period band, evoking the early-to-mid-1980s, much like similarly short-lived successes such as the Hooters and the Outfield (both of whom I also like). They certainly deserved their success, because this is an altogether charming record that is recommended for more than just its two classic #1 hit singles. That said, "Who Can It Be Now?" is a great song with an unforgettable saxophone hook, and "Down Under" has flute passages and clever lyrics that are also easily remembered, while "I Can See It In Your Eyes,” "Underground," "People Just Love To Play With Words," and “Be Good Johnny” (the latter of which also got some airplay back in the day) are some of the other easily enjoyable (if not as easily remembered) highlights. The band had a simple, lightly melodic style that was atmospherically produced and capably performed, yielding a modest but pleasurable sound that echoed The Police, minus some degrees of musical sophistication. Key elements of that sound were evocative keyboards, surprisingly strong guitar playing, prominent woodwinds and saxophone, and Colin Hay’s emotive, easily recognizable voice. This is a band with character that was nevertheless only as strong as their material, and fortunately most of what is here is enjoyable, as evidenced by the smooth pseudo-reggae groove of “Catch A Star” and the dreamy, epic-length (6:53) finale “Down By The Sea.” Note: The also-solid if not quite as good follow up Cargo (1983) boasted their best song in "Overkill" (one of my favorite '80s songs period), but Two Hearts (1985) proved to be a disappointing final album.

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