Australian essential album: Men at Work – Business as Usual (1981)


It’s not an anniversary, or important occasion for this album, I just wanted to share the love for a stone cold classic, and definitely essential Australian album.

Released on November 9th, 1981, in Australia, Men at Works debut album Business as Usual is an absolute classic of Aussie rock, that should be held in the highest esteem.

Business as Usual is always going to be remembered mostly for its super successful hit “Down Under”, but it has so much more going for it.

Who Can it Be Now? was actually the first single from the album, and was a big hit for Men at Work in its own right.  It’s simple back beat, excellent Saxophone flourishes and superb vocals from Colin Hay make for a wonderful package.

Although Men at Work are an actual band, as opposed to a solo singer/songwriter, the music has more in common with that of a solo artist, with the songwriting and vocals being front and centre.

I Can See It In Your Eyes is a very airy track in tone.  The guitar accents are used to absolute perfection throughout, and once again, Colin Hays storytelling style of songwriting is the star of the show.

Down Under was a huge hit for the band, and nearly four decades later, still as culturally important as it was in 1981.  Ignoring recent plagiarism controversies, Down Under may not be the best Men at Work can be, but it will certainly be the bands legacy.

Underground is an up-tempo, underrated gem, while Helpless Automation puts me in mind of Australian Crawl, who were having massive successes of their own at the time.  The lead vocal from Greg Ham even sound like James Reyne, and follow a very similar cadence to his singing style.

People Just Love To Play With Words slows the tempo back down, for a fun song, that could be interpreted a number of ways, at least lyrically.

Be Good Johnny is hands down, my favourite Men at Work song of all time.  Colin Hay sounds great on this track.  The backing vocals are stellar, those little guitar stabs are important to the structure.  It’s simplistic but effective, which is where Men at Work really shine in their less is more approach.

Touching the Untouchables features some excellent bluesy guitar riffs, and how the band plays with timing and changes here is really fun.  The little saxophone licks are used to great effect as well.  Catch a Star, while a deep cut, may just be one of the bands finest moments, taking every element that came before it, and adding a splash of reggae style to their arsenal.

To close out this amazing album is Down By The Sea.  An epic 7 minute song, where the bass line is brought to the forefront for the first time.  The guitars are understated and the brass instruments are used sparingly, again highlighting the less is more attitude of Men at Works songwriting.

You will generally see albums like Midnight Oils Diesel and Dust, Aussie Crawls Sirocco or East from Cold Chisel mentioned before Business as Usual, but this album is every bit as important to music as any of those, and you should check it out right now.

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