Almanac Music – Aussie album review: Midnight Oil “Earth and Sun and Moon”

 

Like them or loath them – and I profess to be firmly in the former camp – there is no denying that Midnight Oil are titans of the Australian music industry. Initially, you could say that I was a casual Oils fan, but I was fully converted after being entranced by them at the Astor Theatre in 1982. The show was epic and incendiary, and my ears were ringing for days.

 

Where does one start with the undeniably enormous musical legacy this band has created? There are the edgy early albums and the seminal 10,9,8… Of course, there is Diesel and Dust, the album many critics regard as one of the greatest in Australian music. There are multiple live albums which give insights into the power and passion of an Oils gig. There is the superb Blue Sky Mining. And then there is my favourite Midnight Oil album: Earth and Sun and Moon.

 

It would not be drawing a long bow to suggest that most Oils fans would not have Earth and Sun and Moon as their album of choice. And I understand that, because 26 years after this record stuck its hooks into me upon my initial listen to it, even I can’t fully comprehend why I still enjoy it so much. All I know is that, for a quarter of a century, it has remained one of my “go-to” albums; it is either not so long since having been played – or not too far away from being played again.

 

I still get drawn in by the deep bass groove on the intro to the opening track Feeding Frenzy, segueing into a swirling organ, then Peter Garrett’s opening lines “Well I’m as old as the hills, but as young as the day/ And nobody sees things, in quite the same way”; words which could be construed in a number of different ways. Then it is straight into the anthemic My Country, followed by the psychedelic Renaissance Man. A brilliant start to possibly the Oils’ most catchy, sing-along collection.

 

The album is the Oils at their musical peak, eschewing the muscular double-guitar attack for a more measured approach. Having written or co-written nine of the eleven tracks, guitar and keyboard maestro Jim Moginie’s stamp is all over the album, his keys more influential and saturating than on any other Oils record. If nothing else, Moginie, bassist Bones Hillman, drummer Rob Hirst, and guitarist Martin Rotsey are exceptional musicians. Even Garrett is more considered, not even once straying into hectoring territory. In fact, with lyrics such as My father went down with the curse of big cities/ Traffic tolls and deadlines took him to his peace on the beautiful In The Valley, he has never been more personal. And who would have thought that a love song (Outbreak of Love) would bob up on a Midnight Oil record? Then there is message of renewal and regrowth in Bushfire.

 

I recall seeing Midnight Oil at Rod Laver Arena not long after the release of Earth and Sun and Moon. In somewhat of a paradox, I thought the show was a little flat – that maybe the Oils were going through the motions. Who would have thought? But in essence, here was a band that were the biggest in Australia, that had conquered the USA with Diesel…what was left for them to achieve? The highlight of the show was a rousing version of the controversial Truganini. Happily, the band subsequently proved they still had more in the tank.

 

If you have not listened to this album for a while, take a dive back in. Or reward yourself if you have never experienced the pleasure, for it is an album of soaring peaks and very few lows, with an overall theme of optimism despite the world’s troubles. Have the Oils ever sounded so positive? So hopeful? Consider this from the title track:

 

I wish you could see this great mystery
Earth and sun and moon, human tribe, thin blue line
Earth and sun and moon will survive.

 

When it comes to musical artists with extensive back-catalogues, there is always a great deal of debate about which of their albums is the best – and which is the worst. My favourite Oils song? For me it is the majestic Warakurna (from Diesel and Dust), a track which sums up Midnight Oil in four and a half minutes of musical and lyrical beauty.

 

Is not the subjective passion of how we feel about our favourite musical artists one of the things that makes listening to music so great?

 

 

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. JASON ANDREW TOPPIN says

    ALL MANDISA’S CD’S ARE GREAT CD’S CHECK OU OVERCOMER BY MANDISA VUA YIOUTUBE LISTEN TO TO THE LYRIC\S OF OVERCMER AND LLOW THEM TI DO TGEIR WORK AND BUY EVERYINE OF MANDISA'[S CD’S VIA http://www.mandisaoffical.com. ,MDO9A IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN MIDDNIGHT IL. OVERCIMER IS SUC A INSPIRATIONAL SONG. oVERCOMER I USE AS MY ANTHEM FOR LIFE.

  2. OOOOOOiiiiillllllsss!!

    Love the Oils Smoke.A band with Grunt. 10,9,8,7…….was a cracker. Changed Aussie music in a lot of ways.

  3. G’day Smokie – I like that you added this one to your review of classic Oz albums.
    I wore the tour t-shirt for many years.

    There’s a kind of rougher/ dirtier sound on this after the quite polished and somehow clean sound of Blue Sky Mining. I don’t have the language here. But I always liked it.
    “In the Valley” surprised me with the autobiographical small-picture story – as opposed to the big picture political messages of earlier albums.
    This was 1993 Australia. Keating after Hawke after a decade of ALP. Republican movement was gaining momentum. Less angst, more possibility. I think it’s an album of its time. Still, with Truganini and My Country they held up the mirror and the reflection wasn’t flash.

    Good stuff Smokie – this is a great series

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Great choice Smokie. Absolutely love this album. As you rightly point out, the genius of Jim Moginie is all over this.
    This and the albums that followed are highly underrated as opposed to what came before, but they showcase a mature sound and exceptional playing and writing.
    The Oils were my first ever gig, my ears rang for days as well.

  5. Really enjoying this series Smokie. With regard to Midnight Oil I’ve always been an old stuff rather than new stuff fan with Postcard sitting at the top of the tree for me along with their initial releases including Bird Noises. But I’ll listen to this with renewed interest. That’s the beauty isn’t it: that you can revisit something and hear it afresh, many years later in changed circumstances.

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