11-10slide1CargoARRIVED ON THE SCENE last year with the hype of a NASA expedition to Mars and a host of easy-to-digest descriptions: it would be Lucky for guys, GQ minus all those pesky words. The question that nobody bothered to answer, of course, was whether its target audience of affluent, consumption-happy fellas had any interest in such a magazine.

As someone right in the mag's demographic crosshairs - er, minus the cash part - I couldn't envision a scenario in which I'd read Cargo, or at least one not involving a mysterious two-week detention at LaGuardia.

As it turns out, Cargo is at its worst, harmless and at its best, legitimately diverting. Sure, it's essentially a catalog, but I'm not sure even the mag's editors would take that categorization as an insult. You can't readily distinguish between the editorial and the ads, but who cares?

The mag doesn't pretend to be anything that it's not: a "promotion" page that boasts the subhed "a guide to products from Cargo's advertisers" looks just as sharp as the mag's other spreads. Given the advertising cloaked as editorial in just about every men's title, it's refreshing to see somebody come out and admit it.

A topic that warms the heart of metrosexual and nonmetrosexual alike - TV - headlines the February Cargo. The mag's look at home-theater-in-a-box, HDTV, and recliner options is considerably more involved than one might expect, yet doesn't resort to the tech babble that usually mars such features.

Equally useful are the tips on how to use leftover New Year's Eve champagne as a mixer and a game plan for finding affordable art. So help me, I found myself tearing out a small item on the best way to "age" new t-shirts (for the record, it involves a spray bottle and a bleach/water mélange).

Alas, for every "wow, I wish I'd thunk of that" moment, there's an equally dippy one. A spread on layering seems little more than an excuse to feature another boatload of shirts, while a page on tools to guard one's toothbrush from the ickiness of the average bathroom is the very definition of extraneous.

A handful of the featured products, most notably a $955 Prada bowling bag and a $185 long-sleeved t-shirt that couldn't have cost more than 13 cents to manufacture, similarly defy reason. I can't imagine who would buy some of this crap - but then, I consider sweatpants to be the epitome of workplace fashion. We're in subjective territory here, people.

In fact, maybe that's Cargo's main problem: the magazine offers so many product recommendations that none leaves much of an impression. There are recommendations in each of the Q&A sections, recommendations in "Cargo Gets: the nine things we're wanting right now," and implied recommendations in "What We Bought," a short listing of editors' recent purchases. At some point, the relentless BUY BUY BUY pounding could scare off even the most lavish consumption mavens.

In the end, though, Cargo is journalism in the sense that the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog is journalism, and that's just fine. What it does - present style-conscious, eager-to-spend guys with a host of purchase options - it does exceedingly well. It aspires to nothing more. Really, all magazines should stay so true to their mission.

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