WELL, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Shipwrecked alone on a deserted island with only a solitary album to keep me company.

Not sure if I packed a record player, but I’m sure I could fashion one using palm branches and clam shells without too much trouble. Anyhow, it’s certainly no more daunting than whittling down a lifetime of music down to a single, ideal album.

Alas, here goes:

Rather than breaking my brain trying to rationalize and over-analyze the process, I’m just going to stick with the first album to pop into my head: Midnight Oil’s epic 1987 album, Diesel and Dust. There. Done.

While it’s an album that needs little justification for topping such a list, I’ll explore my reasoning anyway (nothing else to do on this island). For starters, there’s nostalgia. Listening to those first three bombastic notes to Beds Are Burning, I’m instantly pulled back to my childhood, running the poor album ragged in the background of my kid life. But however potent the gravitational pull of nostalgia may be, I don’t think it alone is strong enough to withstand decades of erosion and personal evolution (case in point, I’ll wager that hearing U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer evokes different feelings in me now than it did back in the day). So what else is it?

I tend to get the best mileage out of music that I can listen to both with, and without, the use of my brain. And I can quite capably (and satisfyingly) listen to The Dead Heart, Bullroarer and Put Down That Weapon on a purely visceral, emotional level. The driving beat pulsing through every song, the blazing guitars, and Peter Garrett’s raw, distinctive voice. They’re just awesome rock songs, one after the other. The first album I can remember hearing where I just let the whole thing play through, never compelled in the least to skip a note.

That said, I can also choose to intellectualize the experience. It’s all right there, smacking you in the face. Matters of cultural preservation and human rights, global and environmental distress, you name it. Things that matter to different people in different ways (and to different extents) – but what’s undeniable is the fact that they mattered to the artists communicating them. 

Diesel and Dust feels like an album forged from a band’s burning need to say something, and not simply deliver a collection of saccharine, user-friendly pop songs. And, luckily, it just happens to sound amazing too.

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