Rock Star: INXS, from the mid-2000s, was a curious programme in many ways. It was the first of its kind in the realm of talent-based reality shows. The programme, through a global talent search, sought to find a replacement for late lead singer of the Australian band, Michael Hutchence.
Canadian JD Fortune eventually won the competition, not only riding on his edgy good looks, but with some serious talent to boot. In fact, the rejuvenated band latched on to its second wind with the song he composed, a corker of a rocker, lead off single Pretty Vegas.
Post-Hutchence, though (he died in an apparent suicide in 1997), the band languished in the doldrums, desperately trying to kickstart its career with a variety of new singers, Terence Trent D’Arby an interesting, and almost great choice.
However, only Fortune seemed to make the cut in 2005, going on to record the album Switch with the band.
But INXS’s finest moment goes a long way back … right to 1987. Listen Like Thieves, from two years prior, hinted at a band gathering its ingredients for the ideal sonic stew. And the culmination of a decade’s toil arrived with Kick. Almost a perfect sonic fusion of rock and dance music (a sign of the times), the 12-song long player vaunted four Billboard Top 10 hits (New Sensation, Never Tear Us Apart, Devil Inside), including the mercurial No 1 hit Need You Tonight.
The song had rock jocks and the dance community in a sweet embrace, what with its iconic, four-chord funky guitar intro, and Hutchence’s sultry vocal delivery.
While the three Farris brothers (Andrew, Jon and Tim) were largely the driving force behind the band’s songwriting, Hutchence weighed in heavily with his contributions, making Kick a smooth and pleasurable listen from first to last note.
The album launches with the raunchy guitars of Guns In The Sky, a track describing the state of the world and its obsession with arms, a byproduct of the cold war era. INXS then shifts gears and slips into the Chic-styled, funky, New Sensation, another track blasted on the dance floors in most corners of the modern world in the late 1980s.
New Wave, rock n’ roll and funk all amalgamate into a cohesive whole on Kick. Devil Inside finds the band flexing its muscular Stones swagger while Never Tears Us Apart is the ultimate show-stopping ballad in the band’s cannon. From the dramatic strings, through the chilling guitar breakdown before the chorus, and down to Kirk Pengilly’s wailing saxophone solo, the tune is pure gold.
Fun spells out the album’s theme, but in Kick, the band also addresses social concerns, like, a life of excess in Devil Inside and apartheid in Mediate. Nearly 30 years removed from Kick’s release, the album still hold up well, even if ace producer Bob Clearmountain’s mix sounds a tad dated.
I was fortunate enough to have watched both significant lead singers for the band in concert … Hutchence in 1994 at Putra World Trade Centre and Fortune in 2006 at Stadium Merdeka. Hutchence’s X factor has always, and will continue to keep him firmly etched in the annals of enigmatic frontmen, up there with the Jaggers, Plants and Roses of the world.