It’s a tough trick to pull off: a song so specifically rooted yet so generally relatable. I was too young at the time to understand what “Beds Are Burning” could have possibly been getting at, and to this day I still know so little of Australian history and politics that the full intention of most of that band’s (highly enjoyable) catalog is still lost on me. But you can hear something like “Forgotten Years” and at least get the idea. Would your average American listener, just hearing this for the first time in 2013, make any automatic assumption that Peter Garrett was singing about the depth of Australian loss in and after World War I? No, probably not. Does the underlying sentiment——that any personal sacrifice, big or small, should not be ignored or taken for granted——still resonate, regardless of context? Yes, absolutely. Hard-fought optimism in the wake of nation-altering despair: point taken.
Saying one thing which in turn says everything; if that’s not a sign of great art at work, I don’t know what is.
Chicago, IL / April 27, 2013