INXS started with the Farris Brothers (guitarist Tim, keyboardist Andrew and drummer Jon) in '79. School friends, bassist Gary Beers, guitarist/sax player Kirk Pengilly and vocalist Michael Hutchence soon came on board. Interestingly, this line-up remained intact through the band's lengthy history ('79 to '97).
Honing their act, INXS set out on a rigorous tour of their native Australia. They began recording the following year and signed a deal with Atlantic records in '83. It was their second Atlantic recording "The Swing" that brought them to the forefront. It contained "Original Sin," (with the video showing Hutchence perched on a motorcycle), that established INXS. Hutchence came dangerously close to being "the new" Jim Morrison. The title track, "I Send A Message," and "Love Is (What I Say)" clearly sent the message that this was more than a one hit group.
"Listen Like Thieves" followed. '87 saw the release of "Kick," their most successful recording. Eventually selling six million copies it could be a "Greatest Hits" CD for most bands.
New Sensation: Great Rock tune with an irresistible hook.
Devil Inside: Hutchence's breathy vocals are perfect.
Need You Tonight: Guitar driven song with a great riff.
The Loved One: Re-working of an '81 Australian release.
Never Tear Us A Part: Power ballad. Video was filmed in Prague.
Mystify: Best song on the CD. Piano opening hooks listeners instantly.
Kick: Driving horns power the "Sometimes you kick, sometime you get kicked" chorus.
INXS continued strong with albums "Live Baby Live," "Suicide Blonde," "X," "Full Moon, Dirty Hearts," "Welcome To Wherever You Are," (containing "Heaven Sent," "Not Enough Time" and "Taste It") and "Elegantly Wasted."
By '95 Hutchence and his girlfriend Paula Yates were regular paparazzi targets. Hutchence's annoyance surfaced when he punched a photographer. The incident went to court and Hutchence paid a fine. In late ' 97, Hutchence returned to Australia to begin rehearsing for the band's twentieth anniversary tour. He seemed consumed by Yates' child-custody battles with her ex-husband, Boomtown Rat humanitarian, Bob Geldof. On November 22nd, Hutchence was found dead in his hotel room. Cause of death: suicide by hanging - after consuming a mixture of alcohol and drugs. The story should have ended there but didn't.
As Rock groups age there is the tendency to keep going (whether there is public demand or not) replacing deceased or departed members, as if group chemistry can be easily replicated. It can't.
'05 saw Queen touring, fronted by Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company and The Firm). He's an incredible vocalist but he ain't Freddie Mercury. The Doors, or at least two of the original members, relied on Ian Astbury from the Cult to serve as the updated Jim Morrison. Deep Purple released an album with only one original member (drummer Ian Paice) and another member from the group's glory days (vocalist Ian Gillan). Is that really Deep Purple? But INXS attempted a new low. They launched Rock Star INXS on NBC. The singing competition was similar to the vacuously popular American Idol. The winner got to record an album with the group. Pretty lame. Where in the hell is Ripper Owens when you need him?
The show sunk in the ratings and was moved to cable. Somebody should have pulled the plug at that point. But there's no stopping musicians bent on humiliating themselves. With the winner, J.D. Fortune, INXS issued "Switch."
If Rock Star INXS wasn't bad enough... the band, determined to destroy its own legacy, re-recorded their hits "reimagined" with Rob Thomas (Matchbox Twenty) on "Original Sin" and "Never Tear Us Apart," Brandon Flowers (The Killers) for "Beautiful Girls," and Ben Harper on "The Devil Inside." Doesn't anybody realize that Hutchence is irreplaceable?
There are two classic INXS albums.
The hits just keep coming. "New Sensation," "Devil Inside" and "Need You Tonight" are smoldering Rockers. But the pumping keyboard Rocker "Mystify" and the fierce title track make this an incredible album. Even the ballad "Never Tear Us Apart," with the wailing sax solo, is awesome.
"Welcome To Wherever You Are"
"Kick" made INXS huge and unfortunately they spent the rest of their career attempting to recapture that moment. "Welcome To Wherever You Are" is a close as they came.
The usual clean sound is replaced by Bob Clearmountain's dense production. The album has several hits including "Not Enough Time" and "Beautiful Girl." Another hit "Taste It," is driven by Hutchence's sexually charged vocals. By far the best track is the totally thrashing "Heaven Sent" with its machine gun guitar and Hutchence's searing yet clever vocals ("don't burn the library until you've read all the books").
INXS also produced two other notable albums "Elegantly Wasted" and "The Swing." The latter has the Nile Rogers produced "Original Sin," INXS' breakthrough song - an incredible Rocker. The other tracks are nearly as good.
"Switch" is a good title for the album. Fortune (the switch) does a passable Hutchence. Songs "Devil's Party" and "Pretty Vegas" are actually pretty good. On the rest of the album the group does a fair impression of INXS. Wait! Aren't they actually INXS?