Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blast from the Past: 'Blue Sky Mining' by Midnight Oil

Title:  Blue Sky Mining (Amazon, iTunes, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Midnight Oil (Official, Facebook, YouTube, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

Twenty-four years ago today, Midnight Oil released their seventh full-length record Blue Sky Mining.  At the time I was in 9th grade (which was the final year in junior high in the school system I attended in Lakeland, FL) and a HUGE fan of U2.  I first heard Midnight Oil through their breakthrough 1987 hit “Beds are Burning” and remember seeing the video for this record’s lead single “Blue Sky Mine” shortly after it was released, but it wasn’t until the second single “Forgotten Years” that the band really caught my attention and I picked up the record (on cassette tape of course).  The record gripped me with its passion and political edge (which went perfectly in line with my interest in environmentalism at the time) and spent a lot of time in my tape deck for the next couple of years. 

In a lot of ways, Midnight Oil is the Australian U2, except more blatantly political and less commercially accessible.  Blue Sky Mining was a poignant and stark record that was at times dark and moody and at times brimming with arena rock anthems.  While none of the record’s singles achieved the success of “Beds are Burning,” songs like “King of the Mountain” and the aforementioned “Forgotten Years” should have (they are absolute classic anthems).  One of the record’s brightest moments is the bridge in “Bedlam Bridge.”  The song is primarily a soulful, dark, and slightly depressing ballad but right before the final chorus, is a bridge breaks through the gloom with a rousing crescendo
“So how stands the city on this winter's night?
The city on the hill or so they said
The now is falling down around the armoury
The city's closing in around my head”
It’s a breathtaking piece of songwriting that reminds me of Bob Marley’s classic “No Woman, No Cry.” 

Blue Sky Mining was a record that played a big part of my teenage years and was an early stop on my journey into underground music.  Soon after beginning high school that August, I met the group of friends that would help define the person that I am to this day.  I was discovering records by The Smiths, Violent Femmes, Nine Inch Nails, and Concrete Blonde.  Some of those records have stuck with me and some haven’t but Blue Sky Mining will always hold a special place in my heart.    

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