Thursday, June 05, 2008

Burning the Midnight Oil

A couple weeks back they released a twentieth anniversary edition of Midnight Oil's Diesel and Dust. That made me feel very old: I remember buying Diesel and Dust when it first came out, and I certainly remember the video for "Beds Are Burning" being played ad infinitum on MTV. Strange as it may seem to anyone younger than, say, twenty, there was once a time when a blatantly leftist rock track about restitution and repatriation for Australian Aborigines could become a top-ten hit in America.

It wasn't even their best record, not by far. In 1984 the band released Red Sails In The Sunset, one of the best records of the decade, and one that has gone almost unheralded since it's release. It would be futile to try to describe the band's sound with any accuracy - they're punk, a little bit, certainly in their politics, but they're also hard rock with more than a little bit of surf rock in their genes. Red Sails also has a bit of the then-current synth pop sound, and enough percussive ballast to look forward to the hard industrial sound of Ministry, at least in places.

They didn't let up after the 80s, although they ceased to be a commercial force about the time grunge broke. The group broke up in 2002 so singer Peter Garrett could focus on his political career. He was no political dilettante, however: in 2004 Garrett was elected to the Australian House of Representatives, and in 2007 he was named Minister for Environment, Heritage and Arts by Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd. That's something in the neighborhood of Ian MacKaye being named Secretary of Education.

If you've never paid the band any attention - and most people haven't - give them a listen here.

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