First things first: is the wizard of , the Australian pop group from the 1980s who delivered the sweetest, happiest song about paranoia (“Who Can It Be Now?”) in an age where paranoia songs were all the rage (e.g., “Destroyer” ( ); “Somebody’s Watching Me” (Norman Rockwell). Many people, like my wife, detest Men at Work’s simplistic beats and puerile arrangements. (I don’t, by the way.) But my wife is a huge Colin Hay fan.
A lot of folks know Hay’s work because of the soundtracks to Scrubs and Garden State, or from his mostly acoustic album, “Man At Work,” on which he rejiggered some old Men At Work songs to great effect, and introduced some of his more touching, inspired work. In the meantime, he has released records that have played with a variety of musical styles and song structures, expanding his repertoire.
Hay is back with “American Sunshine,” which builds on his efforts branch out musically by mixing some harder blues songs and a few barnburners in with his more whimsical light rock and pop compositions. The songs weave together a vision of the United States through the eyes of an Australian pop star, i.e., one who now lives in this country but wasn’t raised here, and therefore experienced it only after having had success. As a result, his is a romantic vision, told in Hay’s rich, warm voice. As he says on “Oh, California” – “The sons and daughters/Followed all the signs to paradise/Drinking only dreams and promises.”
Several of the songs here were recorded in Nashville, and the country influence is unexpected. Ever since leaving his pop-band work behind, Hay has been a quiet performer who makes lyrically direct and honest songs, and now, ten albums deep into his solo career, he actually seems to be getting livelier. Other songs, like, “Prison Time” and “I Can’t Get Up Out Of This Bed,” seem simple at first, but on repeat listens they can inspire deeper thoughts of love and loss.
Colin Hay’s genuine love for music and what he does comes through in every song. He sounds like a man at peace with his work, a bard of the sensitive, Alan Alda stripe. This isn’t his best album (that would be either “Man At Work” or “Are You Lookin’ At Me?”), but it is a solid one. It definitely gets a high recommendation from this little corner of the nets.