Blue Sky Mining

Midnight Oil

Columbia Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Who would have thought the apocalypse would sound so damn beautiful? When Midnight Oil released Blue Sky Mining in 1990, there wasn't a more timely album out there. Exxon set off an environmental movement that became both a debate topic and a fad. No other group had more credibility when it came to addressing environmental issues than Midnight Oil. And with the success of Diesel And Dust, all the 'Oils really had to do is get up on the soapbox, create some catchy rhythms and let loose to have a hit.

Thankfully, they took the high road on Blue Sky Mining. And even after the environmenal movent became passe, this album has not lost an iota of urgency. It accomplished the ultimate goal of a great political album: use personal examples to shed light on a bigger issue.

I picked this album up when I was 16. My sophomore year in high school was better than junior high, but it still was an isolated hell. This album spoke to me like my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Nevermind and Pretty Hate Machine speaks to bitter, pissed off kids of the '90s. Songs like "Bedlam Bridge," "Mountains Of Burma" and "River Runs Red" are all stunning accounts environmental and personal despair.

Credit the musicianship as much as the lyrics as to why Blue Sky Mining works on as many levels as U2's The Joshua Tree. Drummer Rob Hirst and guitarist Jim Moginie share the bulk of the lyric writing, dispelling the preconception that charismatic lead singer Peter Garrett writes most of the lurics. Moginie and Martin Rotsey are a great rhythm/lead guitar duo, especially in the song "River Runs Red". The band complements each other so much that you can almost tell what each song is about by the music alone (on the other hand, this is coming from a guy who has worn out this tape so much, clear spots can be seen in some parts in the tape).

Blue Sky Mining is probably the mellowest of the 'Oils collection. It as also their most powerful release. Just as you're about to sink into the helplessness of "River Runs Red" and "Montains Of Burma", a song like "King Of The Mountain" and "Blue Sky Mine" kick you in the ass like an Australian pub bouncer.

"Shakers And Movers" and "Forgotten Years," the two best tracks on the album mesh the despairing lyrics with their driving beat that has made them so great to see live. On "Forgotten Years", the drumming and the guitars are at their most fierce on the album as Garrett cries "The hardest years, the darkest years, the roarin' years, the fallen years". On "Shakers And Movers," the band builds up to a peak and Garrett crystallizes the mood by singing "And the storm is breaking now/yeah the storm is breaking now/yeah the storm is crashing now".

No matter how dark and intense Midnight Oil makes the storm, there's always a hint of light coming after. But on Blue Sky Mining, the light is very dim. Still, Peter Garrett has not sang with more confidence as he does on this album.

The 'Oils are best when they are playing their songs live. But with Blue Sky Mining, the songs are just as effective coming from your car stereo as it is in a packed concert hall.

Like The Clash's London Calling, this album came out as the new decade opened up. And like London Calling, its message still holds up towards the end of the decade. Expect this album to be way up there on my "best albums of the 90s" list.

Rating: A

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© 1997 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.