The guitars snarl, whipping electricity through the wires and out the amps. They pump; they ring; they clang. Dominating without soloing, they're the most immediately obvious sound on Capricornia, the new album by Midnight Oil. Martin Rotsey and Jim Moginie play guitar both to carry the harmonic structure and to advance the rhythms. This dual function allows bassist Bones Hillman (the only member of the band not with them for all 25 years of their history) to rumble and throb his way through the deep end and lets drummer Rob Hirst sit in some of the tightest pockets in rock & roll. Then there's Peter Garrett, the six-foot-eight lead vocalist. Almost anyone can fall in love with the sound of the musicians, but Garrett has a narrow range and a clipped, flat delivery. It may be an acquired taste, but Garrett's idiosyncratic style perfectly complements the music.
By the same token, fans of classic Midnight Oil hits such as "Beds Are Burning," from 1987's Diesel and Dust, will be perfectly comfortable with Capricornia. It's got the same mix-and-match rhythmic and sonic textures, the same anthemic choruses that demand to be screamed from a convertible at high speed. Though Midnight Oil's days as a pop-culture icon have passed, the band is as exciting as ever.