Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Red Sails In The Sunset - Midnight Oil

My knowledge of Midnight Oil is mostly limited to the fact that they were an Australian rock band that wrote songs about political and social injustice. When I think of their work, three things immediately come to mind: their single "Bed's Are Burning", the lead singer, Peter Garrett, is now a politician and the cover art for Red Sails In The Sunset. I picked up this LP pretty much because of the artwork. I first heard of this record in the late 90's when a friends dad had a copy. I don't even think I listened to it. I just thought the cover was really striking and amazing.

Japanese artist, Tsunehisa Kimura, created the post-apocalyptic vision of Sydney Harbor - no water only craters from nuclear bombs and a giant fireball near the bridge. It's one of the coolest photomontages I've seen and it stuck with me even more because I have family in Australia. But remember, this record came out in 1984, six years before Photoshop 1.0 would ever hit the streets. In this digital age, it's easy to forget that this type of art was much more painstaking and analog to create. I tried to find some more examples of Kimura's work, but I could only find a couple old links. Check them out here and here.

So, even though I bought the record almost exclusively for the art, I had an inkling I may dig the music too. It's really a great record. After the first listen I felt it needed to sink in so I gave it another spin. The second side is especially engaging. Most of the songs run more or less together and it has a feeling similar to a Pink Floyd record in the sense that it is culminating to a certain apex. On Red Sails In The Sunset, that point is the haunting "Shipyards Of New Zealand". It starts with a creepy synth and breathy backing vocals as the main vocal floats on top until the rest of band comes in to push an ascending melodic chorus. This continues on dynamically until the brilliant ending refrain "I can't get lost / I cannot get confused / Something's misplaced / Maybe for good / And I can't get lost / I can't get confused". I couldn't find a version of the song online, so I guess you'll just need to go buy the record to experience it for yourself...

There were two other songs that stood out on the first listen that I think are worth noting. The first is "Jimmy Sharman's Boxers" a song about the exploitation of the aboriginal people of Australia to fight in a boxing show. Despite it's heavy message, the song builds into a huge moment towards the end with thecry "Why are we fighting for this?" and the music takes over.

Another song that resonated was "Kosciusko". It's a driving rock song with a great hook. It reminds me most of their future aforementioned hit "Bed's Are Burning". What really hooked me was the string section backed breakdown towards the end of the track.

Overall, Red Sails In The Sunsent is a great record and while I'll keep it at the forefront of my collection because of the artwork, I'm sure it will make it to the turntable again at some point. It's apparent an album that absolutely needs repeated listens to understand the quality of the work it contains.

Thanks for reading and keep checking back to see what I listen to next...


1 comment:

  1. This was mesmerising artwork. the song; "Sleep" was one of my favourites and seems to sum up how we are passive to these events.