*** Midnight Oil
Midnight Oil may never
again achieve as potent a mix of music and message as they did on their
visceral classics 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and Diesel & Dust, but
they're gonna bleed their guts out trying. This CD's "White Skin Black Heart,"
with its charges of neo-Nazism, is the most potent hate letter any '90s outfit
has written to race-baiting politicians. "Seeing Is Believing" doesn't just
grieve for a soiled Earth -- it's also about the way we've polluted the human
spirit through the relentless exploitation of, well, everything. For that
matter, the whole album, with its mournful portraits of corporate egotists at
the helm and ineffectual statesmen and complacent citizens, is a bleak, bleak,
bleak view of modern times reinforced by Peter Garrett's atypically low-key
vocal delivery and the CD's high population of ballads and minor-key
Which puts Redneck Wonderland (in stores this Tuesday) in a bind.
Midnight Oil are always best when they rock, which they've done with
brass-knuckled authority -- even when singing about genocide -- and which has
helped keep the group from seeming too preachy and dour. But it's obvious from
these lyrics that Garrett and crew now think we're all about to be left
swinging in the wind. And rocking out might trivialize that, or encourage some
listeners to cruise over the meanings of these 12 tales. It's a tricky balance
-- setting music and message to equal weight. Here, message tips the scales.
-- Ted Drozdowski