I am a big fan of the music INXS released during the first seven years of their existence. That would be from around 1979 to 1986. It’s good, energetic pop-rock. I like some of their later stuff too, some of the stuff they made while they were international superstars, but I’ll get into that later.
I’ve decided to dig into my CD collection and remikeify my collection of INXS music again. For those of you who don’t know what this made up word is, it’s basically me using an audio editor to make things sound better. That is accomplished mainly by noise reduction and EQing, though I have some more tricks up my metal sleeves.
So while I was at it, and digging greatly those first five INXS albums, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the band and their output. They stopped existing completely in 1997, am I right?
Their first album gets dismissed by many, but it’s actually one of my favourites by them. Heavily influenced by ska and punk in some spots, it sounds full of energy and fresh. Most of the songs are great, and only some are kind of “meh”, although I’ve listened to the album often enough that I’ve grown to like those as well.
This was one of the last of their albums that I got around to hearing, and I was taken aback by how unclear and heavily accented the singing is throughout most of it. I know it’s an Australian band performing for Australian ears, but damn. Michael Hutchence really learned to annunciate on later releases.
1981 Underneath the Colours
This one sounds a little more polished in general, but retains that ska-punk-pop-rock sound. There are some very creatively written songs on here, and a few that are kind of just filler. Though like the first album, I’ve grown to like them too.
There is already some great sound to these first two albums. I didn’t have to do too much to them except remove some tape hiss and do some slight EQing.
1982 Shabooh Shoobah
A decent international hit came off of this album in the form of “Don’t Change”, which is still one of my favourite INXS songs. The rest of the album is very good too, and contains a lot of great songs with a lot less filler than the first two efforts.
And this is actually one of the very first albums I ever heard. Back when I was 13 and I abruptly switched from listening only to classical music to pop music thanks to overprotective parents, INXS became my first favourite band. But the cassette copy I had of this was marred by overwhelming tape hiss. The CD version I have isn’t much better, but I was able to eliminate the tape hiss and loud electrical hum present in the original recording and EQ it so that everything sounds properly balanced and vibrant.
It’s hard to hear it with fresh ears of course but I think it sounds wonderful.
1984 The Swing
I’ve always had a bit of a dislike for this album. I love the first track, Original Sin. It’s a classic, of course. And there are some tracks on the album that I really do think are great, like “Dancing on the Jetty” and “Johnson’s Aeroplane”. But it’s only now, after I’ve done my audio trickery to it, that I realize why I didn’t care for the album.
I had to drastically alter the sound of the album (except Original Sin) to get rid of the weak and tinny sound it has.
The adjustments to the first two sliders are similar to adjustments I made to other INXS albums, and to a great many other albums in general. Those two sliders give the sound a fuller bass response. Looking further to the right, note the -1, -9, and -1 adjustments. That cut of -9 units is in a midrange frequency where a lot of vocal sound ranges reside, and in the case of this album, sounds in this frequency range were overpowering.
I use a different EQ plugin to adjust high-end frequencies, so it isn’t shown on the above screenshot. But once I was finished with my noise reduction and EQ… well, let’s just say it’s an entirely different album. I’ll have to really listen to it a couple more times this way because the guitars actually sound like guitars now, the bass actually sounds like a bass, the drums sound like drums, etc. The whole album sounds more like the rest of their albums. Those two songs I mentioned before sound incredible this way.
This collection of songs is actually an EP of remixes released only in the US in 1983 and a cassette of remixes released only in Australia in 1984. I’ve combined them, and the track listing is as follows:
- Black and White
- To Look at You
- The One thing
- Here Comes II
- Original Sin
- I Send a Message
- Burn for You
- Dancing on the Jetty
- Melting in the Sun
- Love Is (What I Say)
Of course, with four tracks being sourced from vinyl and seven from cassette, it took a bit of extra work to get them sounding great. But I managed, and they do sound damn good. But they’re nothing really special, except for the last track “Jackson”. This is a cover of a song Johnny Cash made famous, and it’s a duet with a singer named Jenny Morris. It’s pretty good.
1984 Live in Hamburg
This live set is from the German Rockpalast TV show. It’s mostly songs from “Shabooh Shoobah” and “The Swing”, and that’s fine with me. I’m still on the lookout for a live set from 1981, though. Here’s the track listing for this one:
- To Look At You
- Soul Mistake
- Just Keep Walking
- Face the Change
- Melting in the Sun
- Old World New World
- The One Thing
- Love Is (What I Say)
- Jan’s Song
- Dancing on the Jetty
- Black and White
- Spy of Love
- I Send a Message
- Original Sin
- Don’t Change
- Golden Playpen
- The Swing
- Stay Young
- Wishy Washy
- The Loved One
The performances are great. There is a bit of a problem with the sound mix near the beginning. The sound man didn’t mix the vocals and the bass guitar loud enough at the beginning, but this was fixed as the show went on. This one took a lot of work for me to get sounding good too, as the original audio needed quite a bit done to it.
1985 Listen Like Thieves
Another of those very first albums I ever heard, this is among my very favourites. There’s only one or two songs that I don’t really care for here, and the rest of them are just brilliant. The sound quality was much improved over “The Swing”, so I didn’t have to drastically alter anything, just a bit of touch-up.
1986 B Sides, Singles, etc 1979 to 1986
This is a collection of non-album tracks that I compiled in one place so I could listen to them all in one go. The main source of this is an Australian import CD collection called “Stay Young 1979-1982“. The rest of the tracks are sourced from vinyl and other sources. I’ve re-ordered them to put them into chronological order.
- Silent Night
- Simple Simon
- We are the Vegetables
- Reckless Ways (live)
- Pretzel Logic (live)
- Reasons (live)
- Feeling Good (live)
- Miss Shapiro / You Really Got Me (live)
- The Loved One
- The Unloved One
- On a Bus (live)
- The One Thing (live)
- Long in the Tooth
- Space Shuttle
- Phantim of the Opera
- Speed Kills
- Here Comes II
- The Harbour
- Sweet as Sin
- I’m Over You
- Different World
- Six Knots
- Do Wot You Do
- Good Times
- Laying Down the Law
There are some really wonderful songs here, as well as some instrumentals and other kind of weird experimental things that were B sides for a reason. “Scratch” and “Do Wot You Do” in particular should have been heard by more people.
I watched a mini documentary about INXS a couple of days ago, and according to their manager, the American division of their record label offered them one million dollars to scrap this album and record something different because they didn’t think it would be successful. Now that’s funny.
Of course, every song on there was recorded with the potential of being a hit single. The band had said so themselves. And the songs from this album were inescapable if you were alive back in the late 80s. This was also the very first INXS album I heard. And I loved it too.
But it’s been overplayed. And I’m not going to try to say if these songs have withstood any tests of time because I realized that I still do like them. I just don’t need to hear them again.
It’s “Kick” rejects, outtakes and leftovers with too much reverb. Half of this album is flat-out execrable. That half is without doubt the worst batch of music they have ever recorded, although I haven’t listened to any of the things they’ve done since their singer offed himself.
The rest of it ranges from alright to good. “The Stairs” is a good song. But god damn, the production on this album is terrible. Chris Thomas produced this album, and he was the same producer who got such a clean, punchy sound on “Listen Like Thieves” and “Kick”. What the fuck happened? Everything is drenched in reverb. They tried to hide the lack of solid musical ideas with studio tricks, and Michael Hutchence’s voice sounds way too “relaxed” in a drugged out kind of way. I remember being 16 and listening to this album many times, trying to like it. It was work. Even after I made it sound as good as it will ever sound, I know I never will.
1991 Live Baby Live
I get the distinct impression that Michael Hutchence had stopped trying once he had gotten to the top. I mean, he was an international pop star, he was banging Helena fucking Christensen, why not set things to auto-pilot and coast the rest of the way?
I was never fond of this album either, and sure enough, bad sound quality was partly to blame. I fixed that part with
judicious use of orange juice noise reduction and EQing, but the lackluster performances and uninteresting song selection are things that I can’t fix.
1992 Welcome to Wherever You Are
Hey, this one is a lot better! In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this album is a high-point of their post-1987 output. It’s adventurous and bold and it sounds great too. There’s only a couple of mediocre tracks on it, and the whole feel of the album reminds me of a cross between “Listen Like Thieves” and “Shabooh Shoobah”.
It seems in hindsight that INXS saw the Grunge wave and decided to find a new sound of their own, which explains the eclectic mix of sounds and the brass band on one track. They weren’t about to become a Grunge band. Sadly for them, they didn’t tour after this album because they wanted to take a break. The album didn’t sell well, and it was part of their decline in popularity. I think I also need to mention that most of their fans around the late 80s and early 90s were young women who wanted to fuck the lead singer. This reminds me of the reason I bought a few Sheryl Crow albums back in the day. Such fans can be finicky, as we will see.
1993 Full Moon, Dirty Hearts
It’s 1993, and INXS is a Grunge band now. Well, Grunge-Funk. While the album as a whole isn’t totally in that uncomfortable mix of genres, they were definitely struggling and going through the motions around this phase. And according to that documentary I mentioned earlier, the other band members relay that Michael Hutchence was “a dick” during the sessions.
But he had been knocked out in a fight a couple years earlier, suffering a fractured skull and brain damage that permanently eliminated his sense of smell and taste. Think for a moment what that would do to you. I wouldn’t want to lose those senses. If I did, I might become a dick too, even though I’m not a freaking rock star.
But back to the music. I’ve seen this reviewed and rated as their worst album. I’d say that would be “X” by a large margin, but this one sure isn’t their best. It has a few songs on it that I really love, like “Days of Rust”, “The Gift”, and “Freedom Deep”. There is a lot of filler, though, and it’s a lot longer than it should be. But not many people cared about INXS any more by this point. The 80s were over.
1997 Elegantly Wasted
Do you hear that? All that energy? All that passion? All that drive? I haven’t heard that on an INXS album since Kick! This one really sounds like something the band actually wanted to make, full of songs they really liked. And even that singer sounds like he’s interested in what’s going on around him again.
This album is just a tad better than “Welcome to Wherever You Are”, though it is a touch long and has a couple of songs that don’t really need to be on it if you ask me. But there are some great, standout tracks like “Show Me (Cherry Baby)”, “Elegantly Wasted”, “Everything”, and “I’m Just a Man”. There are no flat-out bad songs on it, and nothing sounds like filler. Fun fact: if you listen closely to the chorus of “Elegantly Wasted” in the beginning of the song, you can hear them sing both “I’m elegantly wasted!” and “I’m better than Oasis!”. To INXS’s credit, they never mistook themselves for The Beatles.
I enjoyed the hell out of this album when it came out, and it’s what spurred me to get all of those old INXS albums on CD back in 1997. That’s when I first heard “INXS” and “Underneath the Colours”, and that’s when I got a solid appreciation for the kind of great music this band used to make before they hit the international stage.
And then Michael Hutchence killed himself. I remember being really upset by that because of how much potential that last album showed they still had left.
1997 Live in Aspen
I originally thought about calling this collection of live tracks “How’s Your Aspen?” but decided against it. This was sourced from a VHS tape, judging by the way the background static noise sounds and the way the video looks. I was able to cut that all away and EQ some really great sound into it, but there’s a major flaw with this one.
There was some airhead TV presenter making asinine commentary and badgering the band backstage, and that had been interspersed into the live performances, and as a result, her honking nasal voice ruined the intro to some of the songs. I had to cut all that out, but otherwise the performances are really great, and this is a much better live album than “Live Baby Live” could ever hope to be. It’s pretty short though, and I hope that the full concert surfaces some day.
- New Sensation
- Elegantly Wasted
- Listen Like Thieves
- Suicide Blonde
- Devil Inside
- Need You Tonight
- Never Tear Us Apart
- What You Need
- Don’t Change
1997 B Sides, Singles, etc 1987 to 1997
This one is the second batch of extras that collects all the non-album tracks I could find. Unlike the first one I assembled, this one has very little that interests me. It’s more than twice as long too. Here’s what’s on it:
- Move On
- I’m Coming (Home)
- On the Rocks
- Mystify (Chicago demo)
- Jesus Was a Man (demo)
- The Trap (demo)
- New Sensation (Nick 12″ mix)
- Guns in the Sky (Kick Ass remix)
- Need You Tonight (Mendelsohn extended mix)
- Mediate (live)
- Never Tear Us Apart (live)
- Kick (live)
- Everybody Wants U Tonight
- Middle Beast
- The Other Side
- Soothe Me
- Waiting to be Free
- Deepest Red
- Salvation Jane
- Who Pays the Price (demo)
- Dark of Night (demo)
- Shining Star
- Underneath the Colours (1992 Chicken mix)
- It Ain’t Easy
- Light the Planet
- 11th Revolution
- Firma Terror
- Ptar Speaks
- The Answer
- Wishing Well (version 2)
- All Around (version 2)
- The Indian Song
- Heaven Sent (waltz version – original demo)
- Barbarian (1992 Capri re-recording)
- Just Keep Walking (1992 Capri re-recording)
- In Vain (1992 Capri re-recording)
- Stay Young (1992 Capri re-recording)
- Born to be Wild
- The Gift (extended mix)
- Freedom Deep (extended 12″ mix)
- Please (You Got That…) (E-Smoove club mix)
- Cut Your Roses Down (Sure is Pure mix)
- Viking Juice (The Butcher mix)
- The Gift (Bonus Beat mix)
- The Strangest Party (These Are the Times)
- Deliver Me
- I’m Only Looking (David Morales Bad Yard club mix)
- Let It Ride
- Never Tear Us Apart (acoustic version)
- Elegantly Wasted (Shagsonic Bonus Beats)
- Girl on Fire (Back 2 Mono mix)
- Don’t Lose Your Head (Leadstation Solid Gold mix)
- Searching (Leadstation Wiggley Worm mix)
- Bang the Drum
I really don’t care for remixes, and most of these ones are really dull. The “Freedom Deep” remix is an exception. As for the original b-sides, most of them just aren’t very good. Some exceptions are “Move On”, “Waiting to be Free”, “Shining Star”, “11th Revolution”, “Let It Ride” and “Bang the Drum”.
“Waiting to be Free” and the next track “Deepest Red” make me shake my head when I think about how they were left off the “X” album. “Faith in Each Other” and “Know the Difference” are terrible songs. Pure garbage. They should have never seen the light of day. To think that the band had better songs they could have swapped them out with is just mind-boggling. They could have even finished up “Salvation Jane” and traded that for the lackluster “On My Way”. Fame is a hell of a drug.
And that’s all the INXS that I care to listen to. I’m not going to pay attention to anything that the remaining band members have done since 1997 because, frankly, it just doesn’t seem like the same band doing it. There is still plenty of great music to enjoy from before that time.