Midnight Oil: Redneck Wonderland: Pitchfork Review
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Cover Art Midnight Oil
Redneck Wonderland
[Columbia]
Rating: 7.5

When it comes to angry, pissed- off rockers with a message, how come Australia gets Midnight Oil and North America gets stuck with some aged hippie like Neil Young? I mean, take Farm Aid '97... please. That's the last time I bothered listening to Young-- he was rambling on about how we should buy only organic foods. Now, I slept through a lot of biology classes, but I thought all food was organic to some degree. I've never heard of anyone living on plastic alone.

And then he's talking about saving the poor family farmer. Excuse me? Have you ever been to Illinois, Mr. Young? While most of us Southside Chicago kids were hoping to maybe get a used Mustang, Firebird, or Monte Carlo for our eighteenth birthdays, farmer's kids are driving around in BMWs and Mercedes. Most family farmers in Illinois are millionaires on paper. Banks are afraid to foreclose on them.

Oh, wait, this was supposed to be a review about the new Midnight Oil album. Pardon my brief outburst. After all, Neil Young has a recording contract, and I'm just a writer for Pitchfork. So here's what you need to know:

Redneck Wonderland's title cut starts out the album. A song about intolerance and conservatism, Peter Garrett and the boys show they still have plenty of muscle to flex after 20 some years. With production spruced up from 1996's sparse Breathe, Garrett's screech, Rob Hirst's drums, and Martin Rotsey's guitar create a sound akin to standing behind a Boeing 737 upon takeoff. The sound combines the minimalism of Breathe with the experimentalism of 1983's 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Musically it's their best sounding record since the breakthrough Diesel and Dust.

Midnight Oil is less political and more social commentary- oriented on this outing, with suburbanism, intolerance, complacency, and capitalism being the main targets. Enough to make any yuppie cringe, and enough to make even Yours Truly want to take up a social cause. By the time the record's closer rolls around, Midnight Oil has you drained, pissed off, and ready to make a change. Or at least aware that your sheltered world is a fragile glass house, and people are throwing stones at it.

Despite a couple of speed bumps since Diesel and Dust was released ten years ago, Midnight Oil proves with Redneck Wonderland that they can still rock with the best of them, be pissed off with the best of them, and make you think with the best of them. Their convictions haven't changed after all this time, and the record is a reminder that they never will and never should. Neil Young simply makes you want to change the channel. Any questions?

-Duane Ambroz

"Redneck Wonderland"

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RATING KEY
10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible
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