Plans often change, and that was certainly the case for Midnight Oil in 2002 with Capricornia, a record that appeared to be their last until the 2020 release of The Makarrata Project. The band had originally intended to create an epic rock opera inspired by author Xavier Herbert’s 1938 classic Capricornia. However, the project gradually morphed into an album that, while still influenced by the novel’s examination of Australia’s colonial history, is one of the most intimate entries in their entire catalog. On tunes like “Golden Age,” the title track, and “Under the Overpass,” the group embrace a decidedly acoustic iteration of jangly alt-rock, with singer Peter Garrett eschewing defiant slogans for ruminative storytelling. When Midnight Oil do crank their amps back up (as on the careening “Mosquito March”), their trademark toughness is tempered with the kind of hard-earned insight reserved for political artists with years of activism and struggle under their belts.

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