CAPRICORNIA (GOLD SERIES CD)
Since 1990's benchmark Blue Sky Mining disc, Australian agitprop rockers Midnight Oil have arguably functioned better in theory than in practice. You can't nitpick the band's politics--however left they may lean, they are at their core humanist--but while theirs is a noble cause, music, at its core, is entertainment. Tough talk about land misappropriated from aboriginals is just not what most folks crave day after day, record after record. While no one will walk away from Capricornia confusing Midnight Oil with knuckleheads like Sum 41, most will notice an appreciable softening of the edges, especially musically. Songs like the outstanding "Tone Poem," though lyrically driven by sobering ecological questions, is also notable for a bridge and chorus built on a chiming, instantly memorable guitar part. Similarly, "Under the Overpass" drapes a snippet of melody from Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" over a springy keyboard bit that Brian Wilson might have fashioned for a top-down corker. Capricornia--its title track buoyed by one of the Oil's most insistent choruses--is a rock record, but it's one with more settings than "pummel."