Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil are back and touring the globe. Looking for something else I came across this:

From my unpublished letter to Village Voice, March 21, 1990.

In her generally favorable review of Midnight Oil’s Blue Sky Mine (March 13) Karen Schoemer complains that the band sounds impersonal. By this she means that no song on the album touched her at a one-to-one level as did U2’s “With or Without You.” I doubt that Midnight Oil aims for the global significance that Schoemer attributes to U2, but in any case should Americans expect such communion with a band whose persona is rooted in Australian culture. Some of Schoemer’s feelings of impersonality may stem from her lack of knowledge of that culture. For instance, Midnight Oil toured with aboriginal bands and recorded Diesel and Dust to call attention to white Australia’s mistreatment of the indigenous population not to promote “racial harmony,” and “Blue Sky Mine” is not a call for “underprivileged workers” to stand up for their rights but a song in support of the action already taken by these highly unionized workers to win compensation for asbestos poisoning from the large corporation that operates the mine.

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Further, when Schoemer quotes Garrett’s lines “One policy”, “One passion” she misses the irony of the song that also says “Who wants to please everyone, Who says it can be done … So don’t call me that tune, I will walk away.”

Finally, two songs on the album “Stars of Warburton” and “Shakers and Movers” offer the ambivalence of Garrett and Rob Hirst to their international success, and the demand for such success that Australians place on their heroes before acknowledging their legitimacy. When Hirst writes “I couldn’t believe the stars of Warburton were waiting for me” and Garrett affirms “I can’t live without your love” they look to Australia, for all its faults, for support and inspiration. For Australians this is communication at the one-to-one level. To ask for more is to ask for a bland homogeneous international culture.

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