Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Men at Work - Cargo

Following their multi-Platinum selling 1981 debut album Business As Usual, the Australian rock band Men at Work returned to the studios to work on their follow-up album. What resulted was 1983’s Cargo which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this month. This one too went multi-Platinum worldwide, charting at number 8 in Sweden and the UK, number 4 in Norway, number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 2 in New Zealand, and number 1 in Australia.

Side one begins with “Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive”. As the third single, it went to number 31 in the UK, number 28 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 25 in Ireland, number 16 in New Zealand, number 12 on the US Mainstream Rock charts, and number 6 in Australia. I like how the song starts with a footsteps and a chiming clock tower in the distance; it sets a nice mood for Victorian England as the song plays homage to the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The song lyrics tell the tale of a mad scientist who creates a potion to make himself more attractive and sociable.

“Overkill”, the first single, charted at number 30 in Germany, number 24 in New Zealand, number 21 in the UK, number 5 in Australia and Norway, and number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock charts. It has a pleasant mid-tempo pop bounce to it rhythmically, punctuated by the saxophone played by Greg Ham, which counters the anxious and worrisome lyrics.

Guitarist Ron Strykert takes the lead vocals on the next track “Settle Down My Boy”, a track which he also wrote. This one is all about a son getting his mother’s advice about planning for his future, including marriage and a family. The guitar has an acoustic, folksy sound to it on the bridge and the saxophone at the end has a touch of sadness to it.

“Upstairs in My House” is an up-tempo tune about a recluse who is content to watch the neighborhood around him from the confines of his domicile.

“No Sign of Yesterday”, the album’s longest track at over six minutes, is full of loneliness and regret.

Side two starts with the instantly recognizable plinky strains of “It’s a Mistake”. As the second single, it charted at number 43 in New Zealand, number 34 in Australia, number 33 in the UK, number 27 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, number 19 in Germany, number 11 in Ireland, number 10 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The up-beat hit suggests that a military incursion by the United States to a foreign land might not have been the right thing to do after all. I like how it winds down at the very end.

The fourth and final single was “High Wire”, which charted at number 89 in Australia and number 23 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. It features light and airy keyboard strains while the protagonist of the song is facing a dark and stressful time; I like that kind of contrast which Men at Work does quite well on this entire album.

“Blue For You” mixes things up by bring in a reggae-influenced rhythm. It is a nice change of pace at this point on the record.

“I Like To” has another lead vocal shuffle as this time Ham takes over for Colin Hay on those duties on this quirky, new-wave sounding song. I have read some reviews that consider it a weak track but I disagree. I think it shows the band had interests in expanding the scope of their musical offering by branching out into other rock sub-genres.

The final track “No Restrictions” has a strong musical hook right out of the gate that carries through out the piece.

Cargo was another album I picked up on vinyl during 1983, most likely early in the summer of that year. It has an overall dark and brooding theme to it yet each track provides a different fresh take on the subject and thus keeps things from getting boring. As I have noted previously, I was already a fan of Men at Work from their debut album which I played a ton over the early 80’s (click here for that review). This one was a strong follow up to that 80's classic.

No comments: