Back to familiar ground

Dependable. It’s not the most flattering adjective to describe a music group.

Calling a rock band “dependable” implies it’s creatively stiffled, only capable of doing one thing over and over.

Midnight Oil is dependable. Album after album, the five guys from Down Under deliver larger-than-life hooks, straight-ahead rock, and so-important-it-matters lyrics. They’ve stuck to this formula for a good 20 years, and it hasn’t failed them or their audiences.

Capricornia, in turn, is a dependable Midnight Oil album. Everything long-time fans — even Johnny-come-latelies that came aboard 15 years ago with Diesel and Dust — come to expect from the group is here. They even brought back producer Warne Livesley to twiddle the knobs.

As such, Capricornia is one of Midnight Oil’s less cluttered albums.

It’s just the band, the songs and Peter Garrett’s familiar urgent warble. But for some reason, this album takes much longer than the band’s previous work to warm up to.

Perhaps it’s because Capricornia is the Oils’ first album to be released Stateside in four years — and it comes on the heels of two of the band’s most challenging works.

After an 18 month tour forced the group into a long hiatus in the early 90s, Midnight Oil re-emerged in 1996 with the rough, demo-like Breathe. Then two years later, the band came out swinging with the loud, electronic-heavy Redneck Wonderland.

Both albums marked incredibly wild departures for the group. Breathe barely had any electronics, while Redneck Wonderland drowned in them.

Capricornia, by comparison, sounds familiar, and it is — Midnight Oil is a rock band, first and foremost, and this album returns to that simple aesthetic.

But adjusting to the usual modus operandi of Capricornia takes some getting used to. Midnight Oil spent the last half of the previous decade on a creative rollercoaster, and man has it been some ride.

In other words, fans who love Midnight Oil when they stick to the rock ‘n’ roll they know best will find Capricornia a true delight.

But anyone who holds the group to the creative highs they had established for themselves might feel jarred to hear them going back to the basics.