March 19, 1990 12:00 PM

Midnight Oil

With the current charts featuring such groups as Milli Vanilli and New Kids on the Block, whose sense of pop history dates back to last week, it’s more than a bit refreshing to listen to the third major-label record from Australia’s energetic Midnight Oil.

What’s even more satisfying about Blue Sky Mining is its consistency coming off the group’s monster LP Diesel and Dust two years ago. Their music is as accessible as any haircut band headed for the charts but with one huge difference: They have shaped a style (heck, they’ve actually got one) that graciously gives a nod to influences like the Stones and the best of new wave, yet still manages to sound vibrantly original. Take a listen to the album’s best cut, “King of the Mountain.” You could plop this juicy rocker into any jukebox and leave it there for years, and it might never sound dated.

The band’s other asset is its rangy front man and lead singer Peter Garrett. At 6’6″, Garrett could command attention just by standing around. But he does much more than that. He sings with a passion for the music and, not incidentally, the causes he wants people to know about.

Unlike such doomsayers as Jackson Browne, whose music has become subservient to political diatribes, Garrett makes issues like the destruction of the planet and worker exploitation come alive. He and the band reel you in with pleasant hooks, and while he has your attention, he points out the problems he thinks the world needs to confront.

Topical or fashionable? Well, it’s a bit of both, maybe, but when the record is over, chances are you’ll remember the music as well as the message. Can anyone say the same about a certain rhyming-named British duo with braids? (Columbia)

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