The politically active Australian rock band Midnight Oil released their first true album of new material in nearly 20 years today in the seven track, 33 minute long The Makarrata Project, a mostly artsy, almost spoken word album rather than a straight forward collection of rock songs.
Midnight Oil has released B-sides, rarities and demo albums in the last few years, constituting unreleased songs, but not a new studio album since 2002’s Capricornia, which preceded the band’s break-up so singer Peter Garrett could focus on his political career. And by all accounts, a successful one as he was elected to the Australian Labor Party in 2004.
Midnight Oil sort of returned in 2009 but not until 2016 did the band fully reunite and begin touring. An energetic concert in Portland showed Midnight Oil in top form with much left in the tank 40 years after they formed. Garrett’s vocals unblemished after all this time and the band indicated a new album was forthcoming.
Midnight Oil The Makarrata Project Album Review
If you were hoping for something along the lines of Blue Sky Mining move on, but if you like out of the box folksy projects that probably resonate more at an awareness symposium then you might spin The Makarrata Project. At least once.
The Makarrata Project opens with “First Nation” a standard Midnight Oil approach to song writing that moves along pretty well to start then about two minutes in the rap begins. That pretty much ended it for me. Overall though, the song repeats quite a bit but the chorus helps salvage things and after a few spins it landed better than my first impression.
“Gadigal Land” will stand as a classic Midnight Oil track. A fun song, with an upbeat tempo that feels like a rock song, sounds like Midnight Oil and the horn section really works. A great track and also the best of the seven. Unfortunately, the rock songs end here.
“Change the Date” brings additional vocalists, some who chant, especially the final minute or so. The first half sounds a lot like something you’d sing at church. “Terror Australia” features Australian singer Alice Skye and a gentle piano. Skye has a pretty voice, it’s a sweet song but it’s not Midnight Oil. “Desert Man, Desert Woman” also leaves Garrett on the sidelines as Australian singer and songwriter Frank Yamma takes vocals duties while delicately strumming on the acoustic. He intersperses English with Pitjantjatjara throughout but it’s not a Midnight Oil song.
“Wind In My Head” sounds a bit like “First Nation” when it opens but thankfully moves a different direction once Garrett chimes in. It’s pretty rustic with little tempo change as Australian singer and songwriter Kev Carmody gives an oral message for the last 90 seconds.
Finally, The Makarrata Project ends with “Uluru Statement from the Heart / Come On Down” which indeed commences as a statement read by multiple people for four minutes before Midnight Oil works in the “Come On Down” section, a call for unity I’d guess, but an actual song that would have been better off as a separate track. Though I’m sure the point to interlocking with the “Statement” portion is to get the listener to hear the opening proclamation rather than hitting “skip.”
Midnight Oil collaborates with many Indigenous artists and First Nations people on The Makarrata Project, a record billed as a mini-album. Genre wise, I suppose maybe “World Music” describes The Makarrata Project the most.
Certainly, every nation has their sins. Some choose to focus on those while others highlight the good. I won’t pretend to know anything about Australia and the Aboriginals but Garrett and Midnight Oil have power and their passion allowing The Makarrata Project to fall right in line with their political activism and accomplish their goals in bringing attention to the plight of the Indigenous peoples of Australia.
Good on ya, but not sure how much The Makarrata Project will move the needle.
Music Album: D+
Advocacy Album: A-
Midnight Oil The Makarrata Project Songs:
- First Nation
- Gadigal Land
- Change the Date
- Terror Australia
- Desert Man, Desert Woman
- Wind in My Head
- Uluru Statement from the Heart / Come On Down