Picks and Pans Review: Earth and Sun and Moon

updated 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Midnight Oil

Everything about Australia's Midnight Oil is oversize, from its towering, bald, manic lead singer, Peter Garrett, to the full-throated activism of its lyrics, which raise a cry against racism, injustice and environmental destruction. A lesser band might sink under this weight, but Midnight Oil is saved by the expansiveness of its music.

The group's ninth album in 15 years is full of irresistible hooks and echoes of Cream, the Byrds, Black Sabbath and psychedelic-era Beatles. The sound is appealingly scuffed-up, live-sounding and varied in texture. As the rhythm section churns, guitars, piano, organ, harmonica and vocal harmonies take turns stepping to the fore.

As usual, most of the songs have an impassioned message: "Truganini," for instance, is about the subjugation of Australia's Aborigines in the 19th century. But for the most part, Garrett's lyrics avoid heavy-handedness. This is an album that evokes the hard-bitten terrain and frontier spirit of the band's native country. (Columbia)

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