After Basque and chocolate themed music, I’m returning to those artists I’ve seen live more than once. Today’s band are Aussie rockers INXS (pronounced in excess).
Formed as The Farriss Brothers in 1977 in Sydney, New South Wales by bassist Gary Beers, main composer and keyboardist Andrew Farriss, drummer Jon Farriss, guitarist Tim Farriss, lead singer and main lyricist Michael Hutchence, and guitarist and saxophonist Kirk Pengilly.
For 20 years, INXS was fronted by Hutchence, whose magnetic stage presence made him the focal point of the band. Initially known for their new wave/pop style, the band later developed a harder pub rock style that included funk and dance elements.
In 1984, INXS had their first number-one hit in Australia with “Original Sin”. The band would later achieve international success in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s with the hit albums Listen Like Thieves, Kick, and X, as well as the singles “What You Need”, “Need You Tonight” (the band’s only US number-one single), “Devil Inside”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “Suicide Blonde” and “New Sensation”.
I think it’s fair to say, the band’s golden years were before 1992 and INXS’s best songs were precision-tooled pieces of audio engineering, ergonomically crafted for your radio, your car, your hips and your ears.
Before Michael Hutchence’s traumatic suicide in 1997, and the multiplying tragedies and indignities that followed (the reality programme in search of a replacement singer; the Seven Network miniseries; the death of former manager Chris Murphy; guitarist Tim Farriss’s severed finger; his brother and drummer Jon’s recent association with anti-vaccination protests in Canberra), before all of that, INXS were one thing above all else: a brilliant singles band with a shit-hot frontman.
INXS won six Australian Recording Industry Association awards (ARIA), including three for “Best Group” in 1987, 1989 and 1992;the band was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001. INXS sold over 80 million albums worldwide, making them one of Australia’s highest selling music acts of all time.
My first pick is from the album Kick which begins with an anomalous song called Guns in the Sky, but that’s really just a scene-setter for New Sensation, which introduces the true sound of the album: relentless Prince-style funk riffs, anchored by a hard four-on-the-floor rhythm. It’s also all about the singer, more than the song. Hutchence is the maximum rock’n’roll star here, his vocal at the top of the mix. The band, laser-focused on chart glory, knew better than to get in his way.
After the jaw-dropping success of Kick, INXS weren’t about to mess with the formula, and the follow-up album, X, their seventh, rehashed it, with diminishing creative returns. It was late 1990, and while they wouldn’t have the world’s ear for much longer, for the time being it was still their oyster. The Stones would have killed for X’s lead cut Suicide Blonde, with its honking harmonica lead-off and fiery vocal; Hutchence’s lyrics are a shallow but grim portent of the darkness to follow. Beers’ death-rolling bass underpins all of it. Proving that every band has its day!