Diesel and Dust is a 1987 album by Australian rock group Midnight Oil. Of the Oils' numerous albums, Diesel and Dust is the most well known in the United States, primarily by virtue of the single Beds are Burning, which received significant radio and MTV attention following the album's U.S. release. It is generally considered the most 'pop' Midnight Oil album.
However, true to their commitment to ecology and social justice, Diesel and Dust is an album with a message. Most of the album is centered on the issue of Land Rights, the Australian controversy surrounding the rights (or lack thereof) of Australian aborigines to their traditional lands in Australia (which would be approximately all of it). Midnight Oil is, as one might expect, in favor of reparations being paid to the aborigines, and of a larger role for aboriginal tribes in deciding land use issues.
With this in mind, many of the lyrics on this album stand out clearly as political statements, particularly in the tracks Beds are Burning ("it belongs to them, lets give it back"), Warakurna ("This is the Crown Land, this is not our land"). While political/protest albums are notorious for being clumsy, unwieldy affairs ("Dude, what rhymes with 'full and immediate repatriation'?"), Diesel and Dust comes across as a listenable and likeable album without too much regard for the underlying politics. Certainly the numerous Americans who danced along to Beds are Burning without knowing a thing about aborigines would seem to think so. At the same time, Diesel and Dust manages to keep the political messge in the foreground- at least, if you know to listen for it.
While Beds are Burning is the best known track from the album, others singles included the energetic Dreamworld, and The Dead Heart. Other standout tracks include Sell my Soul and Bullroarer. The weakest song, in my own opinion, is Put Down That Weapon, which comes the closest to falling into the stereotype of the clumsy protest song. Of course, it's some folks favorite on the entire album. No accounting for taste.
One track, Gunbarrel Highway, was included in the Australian version of the CD, but not the American release. Rumor indicates that Columbia U.S. was uncomfortable putting a track with the word 'shit' on an album by a 'nice guy' rock group (and standards for lyrics at that time were generally more conservative).
- Release: August 1987
- Producer: Warne Livesey & Midnight Oil
- Label: Columbia Records
- Tracks: (U.S release)
- Other Notes: Diesel and Dust marked the end of bassist Peter Gifford's tenure with Midnight Oil. The album reached number 21 on Billboard's top 100 chart in 1988. The single Beds Are Burning reached number 17. As mentioned above, the non-U.S release included an additional track, Gunbarrel Highway.