Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 29: Midnight Oil, "Power And The Passion"

Artist: Midnight Oil
Song: "Power And The Passion"
Artist: 10, 9 , 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Year: 1982

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Going as far back as the earliest remnants of music in any form, it has been used as a vehicle for the expression of frustrations with the world as a whole, as well as a way to bring people together to create change.  In the context of the past century, one can find countless examples of music being used to expose corruption, and there are few better avenues for protest than that of music.  However, one can also make the case that during the 1970's an 1980's, much of the "deeper" purpose of music was pushed to the side in favor of songs of excess and self-indulgence, and in many ways, culture as a whole suffered due to this change.  Yet there were a handful of bands scattered across various genres that never lost sight of this more "useful" purpose of music, and among the finest to pursue such a path were Australian rockers, Midnight Oil.  In almost every aspect, Midnight Oil were truly unique within the world of music, as everything from their dealings with "the music industry" to the content of their lyrics to the actual form of their music was a far cry from that being done by any other band at the time.  Due to this absolute uniqueness, the recorded catalog of Midnight Oil is filled with amazing examples of the overall power of the band, and yet one can argue that they were at their finest on their 1982 album, 10, 9 , 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  Standing as the record that gave them more worldwide exposure, the album touches a number of different genres, and one can quickly understand why Midnight Oil remain one of the most highly respected bands in history by hearing their brilliant 1982 song, "Power And The Passion."

As soon as the music begins on "Power And The Passion," the wide range of Midnight Oil's own influences become clear, as one can hear elements of everything from jazz to punk to the rising "new wave" sound within their musical arrangement.  However, there is an edge and attitude that goes far beyond any of these genres on their own, and one can argue that there has never been another band that made even remotely similar music.  The core of "Power And The Passion" lives within the guitar of Martin Rotsey and how it is paired with the second guitar and keyboard playing from Jim Moginie.  There is an almost hypnotizing allure to this combination of sounds, and the progression which they play is nothing short of unforgettable.  Yet it is the fact that these performances are far more subtle than most with such impact, and it is in this somewhat unassuming nature where the true genius of Midnight Oil resides.  The overall sound on "Power And The Passion" is given a brilliant groove by the bass of Peter Gifford, and it is also the repeated pace which the dictates that gives the song its signature sense of movement.  The band is rounded out musically by drummer Robert Hirst, and along with his almost bouncing drum performance, "Power And The Passion" features the only studio drum solo the band ever recorded.  It is also the way that the additional instrumentation, including horns, fill out the song with an amazing presence that makes "Power And The Passion" such a powerful moment in music history.

Standing just as distinctive as the music over which he sings, there is no mistaking the voice and presence of singer Peter Garrett, and there is no question that he stands as one of the finest vocalists of all time.  Easily transitioning between speaking and singing, there is a tone within each word he delivers that demands complete attention, and this works perfectly with the deep meaning and intent that runs through nearly every song in the bands' catalog.  It is almost as if Garrett is trying to "teach" the listener at every turn that makes his performances so intriguing, and that is certainly the case throughout "Power And The Passion."  Though the subjects that are tackled on this song have certainly been explored both before and since, one can make the case that this song stands as one of the most brutal and unapologetic takes on society as a whole, and even nearly three decades later, many of the observations are still relevant.  Overall, "Power And The Passion" comes off as a scathing indictment of the materialistic culture that can be found across the entire planet, and the way that the song seems to suggest this will only lead to a societal downfall is a rather grim, but undeniably logical thought.  The song also takes some rather unsubtle shots at the foreign policy of the United States, and this turns the fact that it was a chart success in that country into one of the more ironic occurrences the world of music has ever seen.

In many way far beyond other songs that garner similar commentary, due to the amazingly distinctive musical fusion, as well as the brilliantly penned lyrics, "Power And The Passion"  stands as a song that must be experienced firsthand to be properly understood and appreciated.  Yet in many ways, this is true of the entire recorded catalog of Midnight Oil, as their musical approach simply does not fit into any previously established musical category.  From the almost bouncing energy to the sheer beauty in their musical orchestrations, Midnight Oil ignored every "rule" and norm within the world of music, and their resulting sounds continue to play a massive role within the current music scene.  The way that the instruments intertwine with one another gives "Power And The Passion" an almost classical feel at points, and yet there is a grind and an edge that makes it impossible to dismiss the hard rock attitude that runs throughout the song.  Furthermore, in the entire musical approach, as well as the content and style of the lyrics, "Power And The Passion"  clearly takes a great deal from the punk ethos, and yet the more sonically competent and restrained style with which they play almost makes it impossible to think these two styles could be connected.  However, the fact that there is so much going on beneath the surface is in many ways the definition of the sound and intent of Midnight Oil, and one would be hard pressed to find a better example of their unique genius than what can be heard on 1982's, "Power And The Passion."

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Surprised to find this here. Check out the lyrics on "Short Memory" if you really want a laugh. And then to lift out of that gloom listen to"Wedding Cake Island"