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Men At Work - Business As Usual / Cargo / The Essential
(Columbia/Legacy)

The phrase "'80s music" can mean so many different things. Michael Jackson and Madonna are certainly on most peoples' lists of important music of that decade. But where you go from there is up to your biases--some go for Siouxsie and The Smiths. Others, Prince and Rick James. Bon Jovi and Motley Crue. Springsteen and Mellencamp. Minor Threat and The Minutemen. RUN-DMC and LL Cool J. And a thousand other variations.

If the most fertile, creative part of the '80s really did end in 1982--which is an easier point to argue than it might seem on the surface--then the radio-friendly new-wave pop of Men At Work really did represent the line in the sand. There wasn't anything terribly cutting edge about the music of these five Aussies, but their amiable pop stands up so much better than the Huey Lewises and Mr. Misters who soon replaced them at the top of the charts. Perhaps it was a product of the band's geographical origins, or simply the creative mind of Colin Hay. Though plenty of bad '80s pop followed in the wake of the Work, hey, that's not their fault.

So if there are a few weak songs on their first two albums and this inessential best-of (the fourth single-disc MAW compilation released in the U.S.--talk about overkill), there are also some great pop moments to be discovered, especially among the album tracks. The peppy likes of "I Can See It In Your Eyes," "Underground," and "High Wire" are key highlights. The reissues of Business and Cargo are loaded with bonus tracks, although the live b-side version of "I Like To" was mysteriously omitted from Cargo (it can be found on the 1996 best-of Contraband). Alas, in the timeless words of comedian Stephen Wright, "You can't have everything--where would you put it?"

Plus, two words: flute solo.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 2003