The Music Box's #3 album for 2002
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2002, Volume 9, #5
Written by John Metzger
Despite coming to age more than a decade apart, there are a lot of similarities between Pearl Jam and Midnight Oil. Both bands skyrocketed to fame, and both bands saw their audiences fade and creative output dwindle as social activism began to overshadow their music. Resurrection, however, is the key to longevity, and the mark of a great band. Pearl Jam was reborn with 1998ís Yield, and Midnight Oil has followed suit with this yearís Capricornia.
Indeed, it has been awhile since Midnight Oil has made much of a dent in the U.S. market. And had the initial concept behind Capricornia come to pass, the band might still be toiling in relative obscurity. The original idea was to create a mammoth rock opera full of instrumental interludes and a whole slew of songs based on the characters in Xavier Herbertís novel of the same title. Itís a dark, depressing story of self- discovery that often shows the worst of the human condition as it outlines the terrible race relations between the Aboriginal people of Australia and the European settlers ó right up Midnight Oilís alley, perhaps, but also more than most people can handle.
Thatís the beauty of the resulting album. After several years of developing the project, Midnight Oil boiled down the essence of the novel, retained its socio-political perspective (while putting it in a modern light), and meshed it with some of the finest music the band has ever written. Itís sure to please diehard fans, yearning for a return to Diesel and Dust; itís sure to please the faithful looking for the group to take them someplace new; and itís sure to please newcomers looking for a modern take on classic rock. Scattered shards of The Byrds and The Beatles drift throughout Capricorniaís songs ó from the guitar that churns throughout The Golden Age to the backing vocals on Too Much Sunshine. Tracks like Mosquito March and Been Away too Long recall more traditional Midnight Oil fare. And the way it all comes together fits in line with Pearl Jamís Yield or U2ís All That You Canít Leave Behind.
Capricornia certainly isnít Midnight Oilís first stab at a pop record. Both Earth and Sun and Moon and to a lesser degree Breathe found the band moving more in this direction. But neither of those discs fell together quite so nicely or cohesively as Capricornia. And, although the band continues to tackle tough topics ó everything from the plight of the E. Timor people (Say Your Prayers) to homelessness (Under the Overpass) is represented ó itís the music that carries the message. As a result, whether one wants to protest the inadequacies of todayís society or cause the workweek to fade in a blaze of rock ínĎ roll glory, Capricornia does the trick.
Capricornia is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box