Late February, 1990. An Australian band which had burst into the public consciousness of a U.S. audience with their previous record releases a follow-up, hopeful to continue and expand that level of success.
What is it?
Blue Sky Mining is Midnight Oil’s follow-up to the popular and highly-regarded Diesel & Dust album, consisting of ten more tracks of the brand of politically-charged rock-n-roll that made them famous.
How does it sound?
How sounds the sampler on this winter’s night:
Why this pick?
There are more important Oils records. There are Oils records which are held in higher critical regard. Blue Sky Mining occupies an interesting sweet spot, however. It’s the band at the height of their powers, delivering a solid record with some gorgeous stand-out tracks and almost no duds.
Yet somehow this album is also the safest thing they’ve ever done. How do you follow a popular and acclaimed world-wide hit record? By very carefully giving audiences more-or-less what they want, in this case. This somewhat mellower Midnight Oil phase continues right up to the release of the in-your-face Redneck Wonderland several records down the road.
Which songs are the highlights?
Unlike the initial run of Star Trek movies, this album’s highlights are on the odd rather than the even numbers. It leads off with the big hit single, “Blue Sky Mine.” Two songs later, “Bedlam Bridge.” Two songs later, the gorgeous “Mountains of Burma.” Two songs later, “River Runs Red.” The pattern continues and breaks with the ninth & tenth songs, the outstanding pairing of “One Country” and “Antarctica” (one of my all-time favorite Oils tunes).
Seriously, “Antarctica” is just plain beautiful.
Which songs don’t work so well?
“Shakers and Movers” is the only dull thud for me here. It sort of vaguely comes off as being something like a love song, almost, and boy howdy are the Oils not good at those. Other than that I’d say “King of the Mountain” and “Forgotten Years” are by-the-numbers tunes which are listenable enough but don’t stick in the mind much past the final fade-out.
Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?
It could’ve been either of the “red” albums (Redneck Wonderland or Red Sails in the Sunset) or else 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Not that I couldn’t make a case for most things in the catalog other than Capricornia or Breathe, mind you. Sure, this is an angry band in a lot of ways, but they deliver that anger with such infectious energy that it doesn’t bring you down, it lifts you up and gives you energy and strength.
Any final thoughts?
Due to an interesting coincidence I didn’t notice until it was revealed by the spreadsheet I’m using to track this project, next week’s entry will, indeed, count as shenanigans…