INXS (pronounced "in excess") were formed in 1977 Australia. They were originally a pub rock band that tried to fit in with the new wave. Before long, the band perfected an appealing mixture of hard rock and dance music that became enormously popular in the 1980's. Their popularity faded in the '90's with the onslaught of grunge. The band's original six-member lineup remained unchanged until 1997, when lead singer Michael Hutchence died from an apparent suicide. The band replaced Hutchence in 2005 with a Canadian singer named J.D. Fortune, whom they selected on the TV reality show Rock Star: INXS. After recording one album with Fortune and then replacing him with another frontman named Ciaran Gribbin, INXS finally called it quits in 2012.
The first two INXS albums (which were not released in the U.S. until 1984, after the band had achieved stateside recognition) and the last two albums with Hutchence are out of print. Fortunately, none of those albums are essential.
INXS' self-titled 1980 debut album, produced in part by the band, is amateurish but fairly likable. It sounds as though the youthful pub rockers were attempting to make a record on the order of the first two Joe Jackson albums, but the songs and arrangements are too thin to achieve that. Hutchence's Jagger-like vocals sound a bit awkward here, but he did display notable charisma early on. The album's better songs ("Just Keep Walking", "Learn To Smile", "In Vain") hint at the good times that were ahead.
1. On A Bus
3. Just Keep Walking
4. Learn To Smile
6. In Vain
7. Roller Skating
8. Body Language
9. Newsreel Babies
10. Wishy Washy
Underneath the Colours, the second INXS album, is more polished and consistent than its predecessor, but it doesn't generate the same excitement as the band's later work. Though it was a technical step forward, most of the songs are weak. Only a few of them ("Stay Young", "Barbarian", "Just To Learn Again") are memorable at all.
1. Stay Young
3. Big Go Go
4. Underneath the Colours
5. Fair Weather Ahead
6. Night of Rebellion
9. What Would You Do
10. Just To Learn Again
Note: the Australian 2-CD set Stay Young 1979-1982 (Raven RVCD-145) contains these two complete albums on one disc (along with two non-LP singles) and throws in a second disc with 21 bonus tracks.
The 1983 release Dekadance was an EP of extended dance remixes of four songs from the 1982 album Shabooh Shoobah, the album on which the band hit their stride. Dance remix EPs were a relatively new thing for non-disco acts at the time, but that doesn't make Dekadance any better than most. These four songs would have been better left alone. The extended versions of "Black and White" and "To Look At You" are merely unnecessary, while the remixed version of the hit single "The One Thing" is rather annoying; the echo and quick-change effects now sound quite primitive to digital-age ears. "Here Comes II" is a new version of the weakest track on Shabooh, with no noticeable improvements. Dekadance is for incurable completists only; it may not even go over well at a retro-'80's dance party.
1. Black and White (extended version) (4:54)
2. To Look At You (extended version) (6:26)
3. The One Thing (extended version) (6:06)
4. Here Comes II (new version) (3:27)
For the remainder of the '80's, the popularity of INXS grew with each album. They reached their commercial peak with the 1987 album Kick, a quadruple-platinum chart-topper that put them all over the radio and MTV. When their 1992 album Welcome To Wherever You Are failed to sell a million copies in the age of Nirvana, the band was officially considered passé. Ironically, that album was one of their best, and it showed that INXS was willing to take chances.
However, the 1993 album Full Moon, Dirty Hearts (the band's tenth) was not a wise chance for them to take. It was recorded while the band took time off from touring, and it usually sounds like it was tossed together quickly. The group put plenty of raw energy into the recordings, and producer Mark Opitz added a post-production sheen similar to that of U2's Achtung Baby. The resulting sound is an odd mixture of grit and gloss that isn't very appealing. If you can program your CD player to play tracks 4 through 9 and skip the other six heavy-handed botches, you'll end up with a half-decent EP. The main points of interest here are guest appearances by Chrissie Hynde on the title track, and by the late Ray Charles on "Please (You Got That...)".
1. Days Of Rust
2. The Gift
3. Make Your Peace
5. I'm Only Looking
6. Please (You Got That...)
7. Full Moon, Dirty Hearts
8. Freedom Deep
9. Kill The Pain
10. Cut Your Roses Down
11. The Messenger
12. Viking Juice
In the final months leading up to Hutchence's late-1997 death, INXS worked hard for a comeback that didn't fully happen. The overlooked Elegantly Wasted, released seven months before the tragedy, found the band in good form. It was essentially a return to the dance-rock sound of their '80's heyday, but it retained a sliver of their early-'90's edge. It's a remarkably consistent album. There isn't a dull song in the batch, but by that same token there are also no great standout tracks to speak of. Elegantly Wasted deserves to be heard -- and enjoyed -- as a well-crafted album by a band determined to keep their torchlight burning. Just don't expect to hear any memorable classics.
1. Show Me (Cherry Baby)
2. Elegantly Wasted
4. Don't Lose Your Head
6. I'm Just A Man
7. Girl On Fire
8. We Are Thrown Together
9. Shake The Tree
10. She Is Rising
11. Building Bridges
The Australia-only release INXS2: The RemiXes contains dance remixes of 15 INXS songs, done by various producers and hip-hop DJs. The results are more interesting than Dekadance, but that's nothing to brag about. I may be a purist, but I think most of these songs were more danceable in their original forms. Many of the remixes are either annoying or repetitive. The nine-minute expansion of "Original Sin" adds nothing to the song. Dan The Automator added a rap performance by Casual Casual to "Tight", which is no big thrill. But a few of the mixes are useful. Leadstation makes good use of two selections from Elegantly Wasted, namely "Don't Lose Your Head" and "Searching", both of which are turned into soothing r&b songs. The Rogue Traders' stimulating "One Of My Kind" (which was a hit in Australia) is a vibrating variation of "Need You Tonight". Just so you know, "Precious Heart" is based on "Never Tear Us Apart", and "I'm So Crazy" is based on "Just Keep Walking". INXS2 is only worthwhile for people who generally go for this sort of thing.
1. Don't Lose Your Head (Leadstation Solid Gold Mix) (4:27)
2. Bitter Tears (Lorimer 12" Mix) (6:27)
3. Original Sin (Epic Adventure) (9:06)
4. Precious Heart (Tall Paul vs. INXS - Radio Edit) (3:34)
5. New Sensation (The Beginerz Mix) (6:39)
6. Disappear (Morales 12" Mix) (6:34)
7. One Of My Kind (Rogue Traders vs. INXS - Radio Edit) (3:19)
8. Everything (Jaxx Club Vocal) (6:39)
9. Tight (The Automator Mix) (4:34)
10. I'm So Crazy (Par-T-One vs. INXS - Radio Edit) (3:08)
11. Suicide Blonde (Oakenfold Milk Mix) (5:40)
12. The Strangest Party (These Are The Times) (Apollo 440 Mix) (6:45)
13. Taste It (Youth 12" Mix) (4:41)
14. What You Need (Coldcut Force Mix 13 Edit) (3:49)
15. Searching (Leadstation Radio Mix) (4:19)
INXS B-sides and rarities 1980-2012
|Here is a Youtube playlist containing many more INXS rarities from throughout their career, with many different lead vocalists besides Hutchence. It begins with the first INXS single from 1980, and ends with a 2012 performance featuring their final frontman Ciaran Gribbin. This blog post explains each song on the playlist.|