Compared to Earth And Sun And Moon, Breathe is a transitional album that sees Midnight Oil return to their signature sound. While Breathe is still no Blue Sky Mining or Diesel And Dust, there are some exceptional songs to be heard on the album. That is, of course, if you can get past the grotesque album artwork. Yes, it is relevant to the album, but it is one cover that I don’t feel compelled to own on vinyl.
Underwater is an exceptional track. The distorted musical introduction merged with a crystal clear vocal is very enjoyable. As the elements of the song build, the rhythm really takes form and you will find yourself toe tapping and head bopping throughout.
Surf's Up Tonight isn’t a bad song. I remember first hearing it on 20,000 Watt R.S.L. and it surprised me as I never felt it was worthy of a greatest hits album. Yes, it has a great groove and is one of the best songs on Breathe, but I also feel the chorus lyric, 'surf's up tonight', is too repetitive.
Common Ground is a gorgeous composition. I absolutely love this song! That said, I feel the mix of the track is slightly off, particularly in the chorus as the instrumentation is too busy, thereby resulting in mental confusion and increased treble. Most likely this shallow soundstage could be corrected in a remastering, but given how bad many remasters are, it could simply make things worse.
Time To Heal is a perfect Midnight Oil song as every element shows just how skilled they were as musicians and songwriters.
Sins Of Omission has a decent groove, but I'm not a fan of the introduction and the continuous hi-hat beat is a little grating on the senses. Sins Of Omission is most definitely a B-side, but I have heard worse from Midnight Oil.
One Too Many Times is a great song, but I don't feel it is a great song for Midnight Oil. It is too folky for their style of music. Yes, experimenting with musical styles is a good thing when it works. However, in this instance, I don't feel it does.
Star Of Hope is AWESOME! The Neil Young inspired sound is perfectly suited to Midnight Oil. See, I really don't mind sonic experimentation when it works.
In The Rain is a short track that proves sometimes less is more. I adore this track for that very reason.
Bring On The Change is a disjointed mess and that hi-hat beat once again distracts the listener.
Home is a duet and I think it is a first for Midnight Oil. For those of you wondering who the vocalist is, it is the great Emmylou Harris. She is such an incredible vocalist and merged with Garrett's vocal style, it is a sonic match made in heaven. Home is exceptional and the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it.
E-Beat is a B-side.
Barest Degree has a nice rhythm and vocal presentation, but it is most certainly another B-side.
Gravelrash gets the cymbal sound right for the first time on the album as it is not jarring and simmers into the next note perfectly. As an instrumental track, I like it. However, Midnight Oil is as much about Peter Garrett as it is his musical counterparts. Hence, it is the perfect song to close the album on, but it is also missing that identifying frontman. If I had heard this song, absent from the album, I don't believe I would connect this instrumental track with Midnight Oil.
Breathe, overall, is an exceptional album and sees Midnight Oil come one step closer to their renowned sonic signature following their quizzical Earth And Sun And Moon album. Despite a couple of B-sides, the album experience is solid. I tend to be someone who listens to albums, rather than songs. I have considered writing song reviews, especially for those that have been heavily covered, but the simple fact is that I don't enjoy music one song at a time. Long live the album experience!
For this review, I listened to the 1996 mastering on TIDAL Hi-Fi. The mastering itself is adequate, but I feel it is a disjointed effort as some tracks are more refined than others. Of course, it is important to note that these variances could quite as easily be the result of varied recording styles or mixing decisions. My criticism in this respect shouldn't be considered negative, as the album is very good, but I believe it could have been significantly better.