It’s been more than 30 years since the breakup of Men at Work, the band that brought Colin Hay global fame and a formidable number of hits. Their quirky new wave panache and goofy MTV videos aside, it was Hay’s spunky vocals that informed the core of their signature sound. However, in the years since, Hay’s released more than a dozen albums under his own aegis and effectively rebooted his career.
Nevertheless, the reggae lilt and easy embrace that characterized his former band’s hits have been replaced by an emphasis on weathered narratives and emotional reflection. Not surprising then, Hay’s own efforts lean more towards the autobiographical, reflecting the journeyman stance that’s taken him from Down Under to the top of his game. That’s especially true of the albums released since his signing with Nashville indie Compass Records in 2003, and particularly so of his smashing new effort, Fierce Mercy, which also ranks as his best yet. Every song on it resonates — emotionally, melodically and emphatically. Whether it’s the rousing refrains of “Come Tumblin’ Down” and “I’m Inside Outside In,” the sheer sweep and scope of “Secret Love” and “The Best In Me,” or simply the touching testimony expressed through “Frozen Fields of Snow” and “I’m Going To Get You Stoned,” it’s abundantly clear that Hay has made his masterpiece, a work so exceedingly satisfying that it quickly qualifies a singular standout of this still young year.
While the unknowing may continue to perceive Hay as simply that guy with the lazy eye , a veteran of a now vintage ‘80s outfit, the truth is, he’s long since overshadowed any echoes of those earlier efforts. Fierce Mercy finds this particular man still at work, and through his labors, he’s reaping his rewards.