Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pop Panopticon

Midnight Juggernauts explore heavy themes from variable viewpoints.

By Jack Oatmon

In this age of retro reclamation and revisionism, scores of artists are chasing an eloquent comparison of the futuristic visions of pop culture from recent decades with the reality that has sprung from them. But few have achieved such a resonant vision as Melbourne’s Midnight Juggernauts. They’re one of a handful of Australian rock-electronic crossover groups that have wholeheartedly abandoned genre definition in favour of mood and texture that speak to both classic songwriting sensibilities and point-and-click culture. On their fabulous debut album, Dystopia, the trio gazes back to Jules Verne and mid-70’s sci-fi rock conceptualism – Rocky Horror and Ziggy Stardust – with knowing glances at New Order and Daft Punk, but without relying on gimmicky nostalgia. In fact, the outward-looking record sincerely presses forward and dreamily hints at issues largely ignored by modern groups – war, consumerism, commercialization – never mired in the self reverence or deprecation of indie rock.

“We didn’t really go in thinking this is what we want to do,” drummer Dan Stricker told me over the phone from Coachella, explaining that the flow of the album was not originally planned. “But as the songs came together and as it was unfolding, we just took it in a direction and played with that. We wrote 30 or 40% of the record in the studio. I hate to say it’s a concept record, but there’s definitely this underlying theme.”

The uncontrived direction of the album does not, however, take away from its encompassing integrity. In fact, the disc is completely engaging, making for a moody, psychedelic listen.

“One thing we have always liked is music that creates moods, otherworldly stuff,” says Stricker. “I know it sounds really cliché, but you make this other sonic world for people.”

The recent releases of some promising material from their peers in the Australian scene bode well for the often foreboding sounds of Midnight Juggernauts.

“Australia has been associated with the whole pub rock thing forever. But it seems like in the last three years, a lot of other similar bands have started up. Now our record and the Cut Copy record and the Presets are totally crossing over into the mainstream. None of us would have ever imagined that. It’s bizarre.”

Check the video for "Shadows" or hear them at