Rock

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Stephen Fitz­patrick

Full Tank/Over­flow Tank Mid­night Oil Sony Watch­ing Mid­night Oil be born, shrug off their caul, flex ado­les­cent mus­cles and grow to ma­tu­rity, where they be­came the guardians of an un­likely mix of sweaty hard rock, so­cial con­science, po­lit­i­cal rage and en­vi­ron­men­tal fer­vour, is the stuff of a David At­ten­bor­ough doc­u­men­tary. Or it might be, if you could pin them down to a sin­gle genus.

The mu­ta­tions of a ca­reer that tech­ni­cally dates at least as far back as 1972, as doc­u­mented here with a scrappy jam by a trio com­pris­ing teenagers Rob Hirst on drums, Jim Moginie on gui­tar and An­drew James on bass, and call­ing it­self Sch­wampy Moose, have been many. Mid­night Oil nerds, who are just about the nicest kind of nerd in the rock ’n’ roll strato­sphere, have been lick­ing their chops in an­tic­i­pa­tion at this box set of prac­ti­cally ev­ery­thing the band’s ever done.

For the en­try price of $250 you get the full back cat­a­logue: that, of course, is the start­ing point, and I rec­om­mend sim­ply put­ting aside a week­end for a se­quen­tial lis­ten start­ing with the 1978 de­but “blue al­bum” and fin­ish­ing on 2002’s Capri­cor­nia, with a to­tal of 11 LPs and EPs in be­tween.

The band’s evo­lu­tion is laid out son­i­cally and, for lis­ten­ers old enough, in vivid mem­o­ries be­gin­ning with the beer barns of north­ern Syd­ney and the slaugh­ter­houses of the clas­sic Oz Rock cir­cuit, head­ing through con­cert halls, are­nas, deep­est re­mote Australia and in­ter­na­tional ac­claim.

It will also be a jour­ney through decades of Aus­tralian history, of land-rights bat­tles and im­pe­ri­al­ism, of the Wit­tenoom as­bestos mine and de­bates about me­dia own­er­ship and con­trol, and of singer Peter Gar­rett’s ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­reer, from whirling dervish rock star to fed­eral gov­ern­ment min­is­ter and back. But for $400 you also get the Over­flow Tank ex­tras (sep­a­rately $255), for which you will need at least another week­end. Here is pure gold: pre­vi­ously un­re­leased videos, in­clud­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing doc­u­men­tary where Bri­tish whiz-kid pro­ducer Nick Lau­nay walks track-by-track through the mak­ing of the mas­ter­ful al­bum that, un­der his slightly ec­cen­tric stew­ard­ship, was the band’s break­through, 1982’s 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

There is much to dig into, across eight DVDs and four CDs: un­re­leased demos, clas­sic con­cert footage, the his­toric 1994 El­lis Park con­cert in Jo­han­nes­burg af­ter the dis­man­tling of apartheid, the traf­fic-stop­ping ban­dit gig atop a flatbed truck out­side the head­quar­ters of Exxon in New York, af­ter the ground­ing of the Exxon Valdez tanker that filled Prince Wil­liam Sound, Alaska, with oil. Rex Tiller­son was at Exxon then, even­tu­ally be­com­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive, and as the Oils re­turn to per­form sold-out US gigs on their Great Cir­cle world tour, he is Sec­re­tary of State in an Amer­ica threat­en­ing to col­lapse from within.

There will al­ways be a need, it seems, for Mid­night Oil and their ur­gent grasp of the world.

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