While it may not have been commercially successful, Redneck Wonderland is captivating and can be seen as an artistic success. The more I listen to Redneck Wonderland, the more I come to appreciate the merging of the new and old Midnight Oil musical styles. Warne Livesey, producer of Diesel And Dust and Blue Sky Mining, makes a welcome return, ensuring a result that will appeal to longtime Midnight Oil fans and newcomers alike.
I also have to say, before we dig into the musicality of the album, the cover of Redneck Wonderland is stunning. It is rough, raw, and clear in relation to relevance and meaning. This album cover, alone, is enough justification to buy the Midnight Oil vinyl box set; especially considering Redneck Wonderland was never released on vinyl.
Redneck Wonderland sounds as though it was conceived in a rhythm-based distorted heaven. The musicality is immediately recognisable as Midnight Oil have gone back to their roots. It is an exceptional song and should be included on every compilation and live set list.
Concrete continues the stripped-down raw rock sound that arguably hadn't been heard since Blue Sky Mining almost a decade earlier. It is a killer rock song and, as with Redneck Wonderland, the instrumental rhythm will have you moving unconsciously. It’s wonderful to see Midnight Oil return to form, following the lacklustre Earth And Sun And Moon and their previous album Breathe.
Cemetery In My Mind slows the pace of the album, but that isn't a bad thing as it is an exceptional song. The musical introduction, that is featured throughout, creates a worthy bridge that ensures the song is thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.
Comfortable Place On The Couch has a promising start, but the musicality behind Garrett's vocal is distracting, rather than being complementary. That said, once the electric guitar and chorus come into play, the song kicks into high gear. It isn't a bad song, but it is only half a song in my opinion as the verse is akin to a demo recording.
Safety Chain Blues has a killer bass and piano introduction. This musicality continues throughout and while I feel Garrett’s vocal delivery is concealed in the soundstage, Safety Chain Blues should be considered a B-side with the promise of an A-side should a different mix be permitted. I understand Midnight Oil were aiming for a particular style, I just don't feel it was well executed. Interestingly, the song sounds superior on headphones. The vocals become more present and are less distant in the mix. That is somewhat understandable as headphones bring the music closer to the ear. It is an interesting dichotomy, but I also feel that a well recorded, mixed, and mastered song should not exhibit these variances.
Return To Sender is a groovy pop-rock song, but it does sound out-of-place with the style of the album thus far. It isn't inherently flawed, it just isn't deserving of its place on Redneck Wonderland.
Blot returns us to the raw alternative rock and roll sound Midnight Oil is renowned for. However, Blot is a mismatched mess as the mind is unable to connect with the varying backbeat. It sounds as though Blot is the culmination of three songs that really don't belong together. It is a shame because I do love that guitar riff.
The Great Gibber Plain is a B-side, but I still find it enjoyable.
Seeing Is Believing is a song that will blow you away as it is not only one of the best tracks on the album, but one of the best songs Midnight Oil has ever written and recorded.
White Skin Black Heart is exceptional! While I have always felt it was a little too shrill, I wouldn't want it changed at all.
What Goes On is an energetic song. I love it! I can't wait to hear it on vinyl as I feel it would amplify all elements and I’ll be interested to hear how the distortion transfers, particular from the drums.
Drop In The Ocean is a lovely ballad to close the album on. While it is sonically worlds apart from What Goes On, I feel compelled to listen to the album again and stay within Midnight Oil's catalogue.
Redneck Wonderland really should have been the follow-up to Blue Sky Mining, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Regardless, we have it now and that’s all that matters. It still amazes me that Redneck Wonderland was not more commercially successful, but it just goes to show how fickle us fans can be. That said, you can’t really blame fans for not having faith in a new album, following Midnight Oil’s mediocre mid-90s releases. That said, if you did miss out on hearing this album in the past, I implore you to give it a listen as it really is an excellent release.
For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi 16/44.1 kHz edition and found the mastering to be perfect for Midnight Oil’s musicality. However, it was mastered a little too hot but I didn't find that to be detrimental to the overall listening experience.