| Sound

Cultural Messengers: Midnight Oil Keep Burning

Moods stretch from the wilderness reverie of ‘Tarkine’ and the poignant ‘Lost At Sea’ to the anthemic protest celebration

Midnight Oil 2019 London Photographer Awais Butt_small

As the earnest iron of 80s righteous rock rusts into a celebrity one band remains stainless. For listeners outside Australia the band has many connotations but the politico rock-pop of the 80s which they championed has been weathered by artists like Bono – artists who seem more divisive more than their universal messages convey, when the message has become less than the personality of the artists themselves. Midnight Oil from their Conny Plank Krautrock roots are worthy of a reappraisal, their songs are great and their performances the stuff of legend, but all things must be passed forward.

Long time bass player Bones Hillman died earlier this year and it seems like a time for the Oils to reconsider their future and perhaps seal their legacy with a sweet goodbye.

For Australians this the fade out of a band that was emblematic of the best impulses of a confused nation. The dream and will to create a fairer country for all against past sins, mistakes and mismanagement. The idea is that we can reconcile with those hurt and those guilty, and if we can do it with arms around each other in song, then we’re meeting on common ground.

Midnight Oil Photo Credit Daniel Boud_small
Midnight Oil Photo Credit Daniel Boud

Tour info:

Midnight Oil, who recently released their 15th album ‘RESIST’, will be playing at the iconic Roundhouse in London on Saturday 9 July for their only and FINAL ever UK show.

Tickets are available from 10am on Friday 4 March at https://myticket.co.uk/artists/midnight-oil – and this show is part of their world tour.

The tour comes in support of the release of ‘RESIST’, their first full length studio album in 20 years. In signature style, the album’s dozen tracks tackle a slew of urgent issues. From opener, ‘Rising Seas’ through ‘Last Frontier’ which closes the set, recurring themes include climate crisis, environmental degradation and the role of citizens alive to the immense challenges of our times. Moods stretch from the wilderness reverie of ‘Tarkine’ and the poignant ‘Lost At Sea’ to the anthemic protest celebration ‘We Resist’ while the album’s musical span is equally broad, encompassing slashing guitars in new single ‘At The Time Of Writing’ and brooding synthetic textures in ‘We Are Not Afraid’. There’s even a three-part epic called ‘The Barka-Darling River’ that keeps delivering surprising twists as it snakes along.

In line with the album, the band have also shared the video for ‘We Resist’. This short film combines submissions of protest actions by Midnight Oil fans from around the globe as well as archival footage from a handful of the many such events staged by the band over the years. 

Although the band announced that this will be their final concert tour, they have made it clear that this does not mean the end of Midnight Oil. Each of the members will continue their own projects over the years ahead. They remain very open to recording new music together in future and supporting causes in which they believe, but this will be their last tour. It will see them performing classic Midnight Oil songs from across their repertoire while also showcasing some urgent new works. 

‘RESIST’ is Midnight Oil’s 15th studio release since they first exploded out of the post-punk scene back in 1978, blazing a singular trail of blistering gigs from Australia’s pubs and clubs to arenas and festivals around the world.  It is a fitting, forward looking, statement for a band whose clarion call has always been “it’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees”.  Featuring stellar production by Warne Livesey (DIESEL & DUST, BLUE SKY MINING, CAPRICORNIA) RESIST will be accompanied by some special live performances that will comprise the group’s final concert tour.

This new album was actually recorded in late 2019 and thus features long-time bass player, Bones Hillman, who sadly passed away 12 months later. Those sessions yielded 20 songs, but their release was delayed by the Covid pandemic. The first taste of this new work landed in late 2020 as THE MAKARRATA PROJECT – a mini-album featuring some of Australia’s finest First Nations musicians, and based on the themes of reconciliation, justice and truth-telling written in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It debuted at #1 in the band’s homeland on the same weekend that Bones passed away and went on to be nominated for five ARIA Awards. Lead single ‘Gadigal Land’ (feat. Dan Sultan, Joel Davison, Kaleena Briggs and Bunna Lawrie) received the prestigious APRA Song Of The Year.

From the northern beaches of Sydney to the streets of Manhattan, Midnight Oil has stopped traffic, inflamed passions, inspired fans, challenged the concepts of “business as usual” and broken new ground. In 2017 the band returned from a 15-year hiatus for their Great Circle World Tour that encompassed 77 shows in 16 countries. The extraordinary audience and critical response to those shows lead to more European dates and an Australian outback gig in 2019 which then flowed into the recording sessions where RESIST was created. The album’s much anticipated release will therefore literally close the circle on this chapter of a truly extraordinary career.

Midnight Oil play the London Roundhouse Saturday 9 July 2022

Midnight Oil 2019 London Photographer Awais Butt_small
Midnight Oil 2019 London Photographer Awais Butt

Ps. Truganini is probably one of the best examples of anthemic rock ever shouted from a barricade

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