Artist: Men at Work
Release date: June 1983
Favorite track: “It’s a Mistake”
I’ve made a pocketful of memories with Men at Work.
There was the time my friend placed a bet with me about where the band originated. Hello? Its hit song, “Land Down Under,” wasn’t a dead giveaway? The band, indeed, formed in Australia.
Anytime it storms, I repeatedly text or ask my boyfriend, “Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? — lyrics from “Land Down Under.” He loves that, I’m sure.
Then, there was the time an Instagram friend introduced me to "Man at Work," lead singer Colin Hay’s solo album, featuring acoustic versions of the group’s songs. It’s actually pretty good.
As I write this, a vintage Men at Work T-shirt is in the mail headed my way as a gift from another vinyl enthusiast.
The 1980s band has only three albums, so there is no real notion of me as this hardcore fan. But, I love the band’s debut album, “Business as Usual"; I like its sophomore record, “Cargo”; and its third venture with a different lineup, “Two Hearts,” is bearable.
I don’t find “Cargo” the sophomore jinx, which many refer to it as. I think it’s an underrated album that gets better as time passes.
Because of its debut album, Men at Work often translates as a pleasant blend of tropical sounds and dreamy synth pop. “Cargo” is a tad different.
This sophomore album is an interesting mix of classic and progressive rock, easily demonstrated in “Upstairs in My House” and the six-minute song, “No Sign of Yesterday.”
“Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive” is a natural opener and first single for “Cargo.” It’s a catchy classic rock tune with a humorous note. The music video follows Hay as a detective investigating Dr. Heckyll, portrayed by Greg Ham (the band’s flute, saxophone and keyboard player).
“Overkill” might be my favorite Men at Work song. The music is calm and simple, allowing the paranoid lyrics to take center stage.
Especially at night
I worry over situations
I know will be alright
Perhaps it’s just imagination
The "Man at Work" (Hay’s solo) version of this song is soothing, despite its stressed out lyrics. Hay’s soulful vocals, which are often compared to Sting, are able to shine in a song like this. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear either version in the laid-back atmosphere of a coffee shop.
“It’s a Mistake” is a huge treasure. Like “Overkill” and “High Wire,” it’s observant and ahead of its time. If you listen to any tracks from this record, choose those three.
Tell us commander, what do you think?
Cause we know that you love all that power
Is it on then, are we on the brink?
We wish you’d all throw in the towel
— “It’s a Mistake”
Other things worth taking note of are that “I Like To” has an uncharacteristically wild personality; Hay wrote all but two songs; and “No Restrictions” is a mid-paced romp that defines Men at Work’s style.
“Cargo” is a coveted album of mine.
The cartoonish cover features the lush greenery and palm trees I expect from Men at Work, along with an airplane, hot air balloon and other vibrant, miscellaneous details.