Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Men at Work

  • Business as Usual [Columbia, 1982] B+
  • Cargo [Columbia, 1983] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Business as Usual [Columbia, 1982]
They call Australia Oz because it's about as exotic as Kansas upside down, and these five sturdy-sounding, fragile-down-under blokes make the most of it. Ten thousand miles from the heart of darkness they're free to project honest, ordinary, low-level Anglo-Saxon anxiety, with enough transpositions of key and meter to establish that they've thought about it some. Call the music auxiliary Police, with more players and fewer dynamics. The words aspire to a bland compassion that sings its origins in the vaguely rebellious "Be Good Johnny," about a schoolboy who "only like[s] dreaming," and justifies its universalism by finding Australians everywhere from Brussels to Bombay. B+

Cargo [Columbia, 1983]
A touch dour, two touches bemused, and probably way too passive, they're so smashingly unambitious that they're forgettable when they don't strike just the right note. But I've always considered democracy more radical than misanthropy. And I appreciate their sniping at the military-industrial establishment. B