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Song You Need to Know: Midnight Oil, ‘Rising Seas’

A critical call for urgent climate action, “Rising Seas” is Midnight Oil at their powerful, resonant best.

Daniel Boud*

At a time when climate action is desperately needed, and at a time when politicians are more likely to spruik coal and vague plans for emission reduction in favour of any tangible action, Midnight Oil are the voice that we need to hear calling for change. Now, their music and message have come together once again by way of new single, “Rising Seas”.

Every child put down your toys and come inside to sleep / We have to look you in the eye and say we sold you cheap. Let’s confess we did not act with serious urgency / So open up the floodgates to the rising seas,” sings frontman Peter Garrett as “Rising Seas” – a plea for immediate climate action – begins.

In typical fashion, “Rising Seas” is Midnight Oil doing what they do best – demanding actual change from those in charge against a backdrop of sonic brilliance. Arrival just days before the pivotal United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26), it’s a timely song that reminds listeners that Australia is still dragging their feet when it comes to real action towards meaningful carbon emission targets.

“‘Rising Seas’ has been burning a hole in our pockets ever since we started tracking it two years ago,” explains guitarist/songwriter, Jim Moginie. “The climate crisis calls for a real sense of urgency so we decided not to wait any longer to share it.”

“We encourage everyone to make their voices heard in their own way on this existential issue,” adds Garrett. “The Prime Minister is fiddling while Australia literally burns. Scott Morrison may have reluctantly accepted net zero emissions by 2050 at last but that’s nowhere near enough. No more coal or gas and a clear plan to cut carbon pollution by at least 65% below 2010 levels by 2030 is urgently needed.

“The rest of the world knows that our future will be all about renewable energy – that’s where the jobs are and that’s our only way to avoid a climate catastrophe. We all have a right to let our leaders know that they need to do much more to address carbon pollution. And they need to start right now.”

In addition to the powerful, resonant track, it also comes paired with a music video directed by Hype Republic’s Cameron March with Mac De Souza (Bra Boys) on board as executive producer. Filmed in Sydney, the clip sees Midnight Oil performing the track while stock footage from Greenpeace (including fitting clips of Dave Fleischer’s 1936 cartoon Greedy Humpty Dumpty) complements the music and its message.

“Rising Seas” is the first taste of Midnight Oil’s next body of work, which follows on from 2020’s chart-topping The Makarrata Project. Recorded prior to the passing of bassist Bones Hillman, the group’s forthcoming record was originally planned to be released in early October, but with COVID halting the continuation of live shows, its release was delayed, with “Rising Seas” planned to accompanying the COP26 summit meeting in Glasgow.

Midnight Oil’s “Rising Seas” is out now via Sony Music.