I could write a lot about Midnight Oil. You’ll rarely find a better three-CD stretch than Diesel and Dust, Blue Sky Mining and Earth and Sun and Moon, released between 1987 and 1993. (After that, they backed off from international stardom a bit with more laid-back Breathe in 1996 and Redneck Wonderland in 1998. AllMusic.com says the latter dealt somewhat specifically with an Australian political incident that we Yanks would consider obscure, implying the Oils didn’t mind that the themes resonated less than the Aboriginal plight so beautifully depicted on Diesel and Dust)
There’s no “best song” on any of these, but the most representative is probably My Country, from Earth and Sun and Moon. Before and between the verses, they play a simple piano line that suggests an inspiring national anthem. Beneath that piano line is churning anger. Drummer Rob Hirst, who wrote the song, kicks it off with a powerful fill and keeps things moving while the guitars punctuate their steady roar with an occasional howl. It’s as if they’re singing an anthem but making little effort to hide their bitterness over the current state of the country they love, much like Jimi Hendrix’s brilliantly twisted take on The Star-Spangled Banner.
Peter Garrett adds his usual snarl to Hirst’s lyrics, which are a ripping indictment of those who think loving their country means asking no questions. From the menacing bridge: “I hear you say the truth must take a beating / The flag a camouflage for your deceiving”
I’m making it sound as if this is some sort of overbearing, unlistenable song. Not at all. It rocks. It’s fun. It treads very well on that fine line between making a point and overdoing it. And these days, it’s good primal-scream therapy for those of us who love our country but reserve our blind faith for God.
Great version on Saturday Night Live, too. Hirst is fun to watch as he juggles drum fills and backup vocal duty, and Garrett is the master of dancing with righteous anger.