Picks and Pans Review: Diesel and Dust

updated 04/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Midnight Oil

Popular in its native Australia, Midnight Oil is led by Peter Garrett, a rangy singer from Sydney and rock's most striking testament to baldness since drummer Ed Cassidy was a shining light for Spirit in the late '60s. Garrett's voice, though passionate, is often wheedling and quavery, but the rest of the band often kicks in with ameliorating choral effects. The music is simpler, better arranged and more winning than on previous U.S. releases; especially impressive is the jittery, folkish Dream World. Midnight Oil has historically put messages in their music, and they're still sending, as in the fervent plea for nuclear disarmament Put Down That Weapon and for the anti-colonialism of The Dead Heart. Wincing already, aren't you, music fans? Usually a strong social conscience mixes badly with lingering melodies (Billy Bragg comes to mind.) However no activist wants to preach just to the committed, and with Diesel and Dust, Midnight Oil has found a generally less astringent way to speak their piece. And Garrett shows some awareness of the problem when on Arctic World he sings, "Don't want to be an advocate/Don't want to be a monument." With music this accessible, no pigeons are likely to land on Midnight Oil this time around. (Columbia)

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