By the time I was listening to Midnight Oil, Peter Garrett’s earnest political criticism had given way to an inevitably hypocritical career in politics. But listening to The Basics, who are back after a three-year hiatus, there is a sense of what it might have been like in Garrett’s heyday.
The Oils’ influence is overt in opener, The Lucky Country, almost to the point of parody. With lyrics like, ‘Tony’s gonna buy you a brand new car’, it’s hard to know how seriously to take it. But they mount more serious criticisms – in a blistering three minutes The Basics rile on ‘tax free beds of gold’, racism and turning back the boats.
Tunaomba Saidia is a radical change of pace in the form of a Nigerian-influenced protest-style song. Its bohemian melody is beautiful in its own right, tightly constructed while giving off an air of effortlessness (Wally de Backer AKA Gotye’s influence is clear). The lyrics are strongly narrative, and powerful if you can suspend your disbelief.
Like most political parties I want to believe in, it seems The Basics don’t provide a solution to their criticisms. But then, maybe that’s the difference between politics and art – dirty deals versus dirty riffs.