Head Injuries has to have one of the most recognisable Australian album covers in existence that truly captures the energy of the entire album and band. It certainly is an improvement over the visual absence of their debut album Midnight Oil, although many bands over the years have successfully adopted this simple design element that is as compelling as it is confusing.
As much as I adore the music from their debut album, it is fair to say that as a follow-up, Head Injuries takes their music to an entirely new level that is more reminiscent of the production qualities found in their later works. However, the shift between albums is more evolutionary than revolutionary; unlike Queen’s transition from their early albums.
Cold Cold Change has, in my opinion, one of the greatest guitar-driven introductions in rock music history. You can’t help but get your air guitar out and bounce across the room. It may just be the remastering of this song, but the hi-hats sound mashed to pieces. To me, the musicality of the piece just sounds a little hollow, as though too much treble has been dialled in. That, of course, doesn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this ripper rock and roll track, but it is one aspect that I hope is addressed in the upcoming reissues. Thinking about vinyl production for a moment, this is one track that I’m sure would benefit from vinyl mastering and playback limitations.
Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) returns the band to their punk roots and reminds me of a band that were at their peak during the same era: 999 (Nine Nine Nine). Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) is fun and full of energy. While not my favourite song on the album, it does grow on you. Yes, even the self-serving guitar solo midway through the song.
Naked Flame has an incredible rhythm and I absolutely love Garrett’s high-pitched vocal introduction. I will probably get crucified for this comment, but songs like this make me immediately ponder if Midnight Oil was Australia’s answer to Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. That isn’t to say any copy-cat action was taking place, just that it is interesting to ponder the thoughts of the mind as one is enjoying the music. I should also add that I don’t subscribe to the theory that Aerosmith is a carbon copy of The Rolling Stones. Yes, I can see the similarities, but claiming this to be the case undermines the longevity and success that Aerosmith has had. Despite all this, Naked Flame is an incredible song with some simply gorgeous guitar work and backing vocals. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and in their entire catalogue. In fact, this song is much more worthy of being included on a greatest hits album than Back On The Borderline.
Back On The Borderline is a good song, but I feel it is overrated. I know it is a Midnight Oil staple, but it has always been one of their songs that I have to be in the mood to listen to.
Koala Spirit has a Lou Reed vocal style that works extremely well for not only Garrett but the entire song. The composition while erratic is utterly perfect. Koala Spirit is both mellow and heavy hitting with an incredible level of musicality from the band. I absolutely adore the musical chorus throughout. It simply has the goods and delivers an exceptional performance in every meaning of the word. Unlike the poor mastering that is present in Cold Cold Change, Koala Spirit is simply magnificent. As I’m writing this review and listening to the album countless times, I am drawn to my own subjective thoughts regarding the songs that I would place on a Greatest Hits album by Midnight Oil. I dare say it would be significantly different to all that have come before.
No Reaction is the perfect song for you headbangers out there. It will get you moving and if you only ever listen to music to toe tap and head bop, then you should simply move on to the next song as this one is not for you. It is Australian rock and roll at its best.
Stand In Line has a Skyhooks vibe and I absolutely love the depth of the drums and the forward nature of the bass guitar throughout the song. As I listen to the song, I can understand exactly where Garrett's dishevelled dance moves come from. Your body simply relaxes and you move without conscious thought as you become one with the music. It is exceptionally enjoyable!
Profiteers slows the album down somewhat. The first minute or so of the song is a confused mess, but then the song comes into its own. It isn’t the greatest song on the album, but it isn’t filler either. Although, it is more instrumentally focused than the other songs on the album and that may put some listeners off. Personally, I enjoy rock and roll albums that have an instrumental focus.
Is It Now? has a very familiar guitar riff, yet I can’t place it. Perhaps the riffs have been mimicked over the years, hence the familiarity. However, Is It Now? suffers from the bad mastering that was present at the beginning of the album. If all songs, on this remaster, were done by the same mastering engineer then this discrepancy shouldn’t be present. I can’t help but wonder if the songs that suffer from the mashed percussions weren’t the result of variances in the recording sessions. Regardless, Is It Now? is still a memorable song and as the final track on the album, it does encourage me to listen to the album once again.
Head Injuries is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. Streamers can listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music. For those of you interested in the vinyl release, you will have to wait until the release of the Deluxe Box Set as there has been no news about this album being re-issued separately. As mentioned in my Midnight Oil review, depending on how successful the re-issues are, I would assume it is likely that these albums will also be released separately, in order to capitalise on the 2017 concerts, just don't quote me on it!
This review was based on listening to the 2008 remastered edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Other than the mastering variances, throughout the album, it is an exceptional release that should be part of any collection or playlist. As far as I am concerned, it sits amongst some of the best Australian rock albums and would certainly be included in my top 100 of all time.
There is little doubt, knowing Midnight Oil’s later works, that I will be picking up one of the new collections when they are released. Based on listening to Head Injuries, I have a feeling that I will order the box set through Matau Records as I have no doubt the Head Injuries album cover would look exceptional in the vinyl format. I’m also sincerely hoping the mastering artefacts, that I have heard on the existing remasters, are removed from the vinyl mastering process. I guess time will tell and it will all depend on which masters they decided to use for the project.