I don’t think anyone anticipated the surprise return of Midnight Oil, one of this country’s most celebrated and outspoken bands, when they announced the Great Circle Tour back in 2016. It was like the intervening 20 years hadn’t happened, that the band had never split and once again the walls and floors of rooms across the globe were coated with sweat and shook to the driving message driven songs of the halcyon days of Australian rock music.
Now, in a taste of larger things to come, the Oils have returned with their first new single in over 20 years, Gadigal Land, and it’s every bit as good as one could have expected.
Penned by drummer Rob Hirst with Bunna Lawrie and Joel Davidson and produced by long time-producer Warne Livesey, ‘Gadigal Land’ not only harkens back to those cherished days of the RSL and Bob Hawke, the Cold War and Exxon but it SOUNDS like classic Oils too. The horns throughout the track not only drive the song forward but they give it the air of authenticity it so richly deserves. Rather than forge forward sonically the band have opted instead to deliver a heartfelt piece of music that’s passionate, poignant and melodically well constructed.
In other words, exactly what the Oils have always done best.
Collaborating here with Dan Sultan and Kaleena Briggs, whose harmonies add weight to Peter Garrett’s lead, and named for the traditional owners of a large portion of Sydney, the song is a rallying cry of anger and awareness on behalf of the First Nations people and everything that has ensued here in Australia since 1788.
“We’ve always been happy to lend our voice to those who call for racial justice, but it really feels like we’ve reached a tipping point. We urge the federal government to heed the messages in the Uluru Statement From The Heart and act accordingly” the band said in its statement announcing the single and the forthcoming mini-album The Makarrata Project. Raising awareness for the indigenous people of Australia is certainly not a new subject to the band. Since the early 80’s with songs like ‘Maralinga’ and ‘Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers’ they have fought tirelessly for the plight of those who have gone unrecognised for over 200 years, culminating in the band’s landmark album Diesel and Dust and the singles ‘The Dead Heart’ and ‘Beds Are Burning’; songs that have become ingrained in the rich culture of Australia.
In the land where time stands still / In the land that’s in a spell / Every day since the day you came is a day of rage / It’s a day of rage” — Peter Garrett belting out a lyric like this has been badly missed over the past two decades. But with ‘Gadigal Land’ the band have once more punched a fist into the air in unified defiance.
Midnight Oil are back in a very big way. And not a moment too soon.