After three practice albums that built up a huge fanbase in their native Australia, but didn’t do jack shit here, Midnight Oil had a minor breakthrough on MTV and a major breakthrough on college radio with their fourth album 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, which combined lead singer Peter Garrett’s walked-it-like-he-talked-it politics with his band’s unique brand of beat-heavy post-punk.
And for me, no song resonated more on that record than the nuclear paranoia of “Read About It.”
As I’ve written before, the early 1980s was rife with songs worrying about when the bombs were going to drop, something I’m so glad we don’t have to worry about — ah, I can’t do that again: yesterday I read an article in Vox about what might happen if we went to war with North Korea, and it was fucking terrifying.
So a song like “Read About It” is relevant once again, where after a stop-and-start riff gives way to a river of guitars, Garrett sings:
The rich get richer
The poor get the picture
The bombs never hit you
When you’re down so low
One of those songs that’s continually shape-shifting while maintaining its original essence, “Read About It” piles on jangly guitar, cowbells, acapella, handclaps(!) and modulations, in a desperately transparent attempt to keep its message from depressing the fuck out of everyone with his existential problems.
Nothing ever happens
Nothing really matters
No one ever tells me what am I to know
So what am I to know
It even kind of works, in the way that getting run over by a tank also distracts you from your normal existential problems. Near the end, Garrett screams out “ah-ahhhh” over and over again while relentless drummer Rob Hirst powers through big drum rolls, and “Read About It” cycles back to its stop and start riff and crashes into it end.
BTW, the live version below is worth it just for Garrett’s manic dancing during the instrumental section.
“Read About It”
“Read About It” performed live in 1985
Official music video for “Read About It” (muddy sound)
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