Midnight Oil’s ”Diesel and Dust”
By Evan Ferstl
Alternative rock famously exploded in the 1980s, spawning large and fondly remembered scenes in the US and UK. Australia’s alternative contributions, however, remain unfairly neglected. The country produced its fair share of excellent bands, including The Church, Hoodoo Gurus, and, perhaps the most illustrious of all, Midnight Oil. Despite their widespread homeland popularity (and notoriety), the band barely penetrated the American consciousness. They were largely dismissed as one-hit wonders based on the success of their 1987 single “Beds are Burning.” However, that song’s album, “Diesel and Dust,”went platinum seven times in its home country and deserves a more intimate listen.
“Diesel”is an uncompromisingly Australian effort. The band tackles issues ranging from Aborigine rights on singles such as “Beds are Burning” and “The Dead Heart” to the destruction of Queensland’s environmental and cultural heritage on “Dreamworld.” Despite the relative obscurity of these topics in America, the sentiments of these songs resonate regardless of whether the listener is well-informed, say, about the Australian government’s forced relocation of the Pintupi people. Additionally, the cultural relevance of “Put Down That Weapon” in a society plagued by gun violence cannot be denied, while the anthemic “Sometimes” is a powerful political rouser for any occasion.
The album captures Midnight Oil in their finest hour, with their trademark aggression, left-wing righteousness, and sing-along choruses on full display from start to finish. An essential piece of listening from the ‘80s alternative scene, “Diesel”is listenable, political, and unforgettable.