Friday, June 15, 2007

Australia's Answer to U2

It's hard to remember but INXS were probably as big as U2 and REM at the height of the 80's alternative tock movement. Here was a group that seemingly had the entire package to bring above gloal superstardom. Beginning in 1982 the band released a string of records that contained radio friendly rock songs fueled by the presence of lead singer Michael Hutchence who rapidly became a huge sex symbol and iconic figure in the MTV era. By the late 80's INXS were on the top of the world with their album KICK but restlessness began to set in. I actually saw these guys on the following album's tour, X, and was blown away by the combination of energy and yet an all business approach to the music (not unlike what U2 experienced around RATTLE AND HUM). In fact there are a lot of comparisons to both bands creative arcs. While U2 went off to record ACHTUNG BABY, INXS tried to augment their sound with the slightly more adventurous WELCOME TO WHEREVER YOU ARE. But while U2 continued to succeed in the US, INXS struggled for most of the 90's to remain relevant. Hutchence became something of a tabloid regular and eventually committed suicide in 1997. From there the band seemed to fade away (I refuse to admit the exsistence of the reincarnation of the band recently where Hutchence was replaced by a singer selected like "American Idol". It's just not right)

What INXS left was a suprsingly diverse catalogue. Going back into their material you see a band that had an affiinity for pop, rock and blues tendencies. Most people are familiar with songs like "New Sensation", "Never Tear Us Apart" and "Original Sim" but the entie catalogue shows a band that liked to experminent with horns and keyboards along with the traditional guitar attack. I think these guys were vastly underrated and upon reflection can be placed with all the big name acts of the time.

(mp3) INXS -- This Time (from Listen Like Thieves)
A good example of an overlooked song from their first really big album. I love how simple the chorus is and yet becomes instantly memorable.
(mp3) INXS -- Communication (from Welcome To Wherever You Are)
Faced with the creative leap by U2, INXS tries to expand their sound and lyrical vision. You can hear a bit of desperation but after listening to it now I appreciate the attempt to stretch.
(m4a) INXS -- The Stairs (from X)
When I saw them live this was the song that transforemd the show from a simple rock concert to something communal and special (this only happens with large arena shows). The song just keeps building and building and Hutchence plays the tension of the lyrics beautifully. It was here that I realized they were more then just pretty faces. (highly recommended)

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