Dusting off your collection: the legacy of INXS

During February, even the most uncommitted INXS fans ‘came out of the woodwork’ to celebrate this Australian band’s music. Many of this blogger’s peers are dusting off the memories and reflecting on the musical journey that shaped the albums.

This blogger was a fan of INXS until the early 1990s. The first album that was purchased was Kick on cassette. Frankly, everybody owned this album! A failed search for this blogger’s rarely-played copy was conducted during the INXS frenzy that accompanied the free to air television mini series. At some point over the years, someone has probably stolen it from the cabinet. This is not unusual occurrence, it’s a fate also suffered by the Don’t Change 7-inch!

INXS Kick © 2007 przybysz

In the 1990s, vintage albums would be played in entirety and commercial-free, late at night on the local commercial FM radio station. One night, Shabooh Shoobah from 1982 was played. That broadcast was taped on a cheap TDK D120 and the album was one of the band’s most interesting. It’s strikingly different to the late 1990s INXS sound.

INXS Shabooh Shoobah © 2010 epicletic

Of the albums in this blogger’s collection (below), X from 1990 may be the most underrated. Lesser known album tracks such as The Stairs hold up well to this day. Unfortunately, the album leads with the catchy single Suicide Blonde which might be the artistic equivalent of Blur’s Song 2! (Sorry if this opinion disappoints fans of this song! Each to their own).

Both Kick and X were remarkably consistent albums and it was predominantly through these releases that people such as this blogger became fans. Nonetheless, in the process of trimming the perhaps indulgent B-sides that frequently peppered earlier releases, did the unique and enigmatic edge to their music fade? A certain level of artistic obscurity seems to accompany musical credibility! For musicians, it must be extraordinarily difficult to remain both fashionable (‘cool’) and maintain popularity amongst fickle consumers.

By 1991, INXS probably realized they needed to experiment again. The miniseries suggests this was indeed the case. This yielded mixed results, as Stephen Thomas Erlewine explains succinctly at All Music Guide. Cue Regurgitator’s I Like Your Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff,  a track which highlights just how frustratingly fickle consumers can be.

Most of the collection © 2014 FM DXing

Should one invite people over… only a single INXS album ever consistently gets played by strangers, and that’s The Swing from 1985. Dancing on the Jetty is this blogger’s favourite track on the album, by a considerable margin. As most fans will know, that album yielded the US breakthrough with two singles

INXS The Swing (Remastered) © 2014 FM DXing

As has been widely reported in the mainstream Australian press, in the television miniseries there was scant attention directed towards Hutchence’s Max Q indie project, nor his earlier single Rooms For the Memory. That track appeared on a magnificent 1987 compilation from the Australian indie movie Dogs In Space which starred Hutchence. In this blogger’s opinion, even in 2014 this film remains thoroughly entertaining, capturing the essence of late 70’s suburban rock, not to forget the pitfalls of living in ‘share houses’!

Max Q autographed © 2011 Luna715

Max Q’s Way Of The World was certainly not a disposable single, but this blogger did buy the Max Q cassette album from a discount bin at Myer… which highlights just how commercially unsuccessful it was. Fortunately, the Max Q singles do still receive commercial radio airplay. Even the video of Sometimes was chosen on an edition of Rage last week by the Sunnyboys that was worth missing (much needed) sleep to watch!

Most of the collection, another angle © 2014 FM DXing

Critics will always be divided about the accuracy of any biographical production. Hutchence’s family might argue on commercial radio about whether the script was reflective enough of his individual musical genius. That alone seems somewhat odd, because it was an INXS (i.e. a collective) biography. One thing is for sure. Making a biographical miniseries has drawn old fans (like this writer) back to the music of INXS. Perhaps through the mainstream attention, the band’s work has even captured a skerrick of a newer audience? And that’s important.

Singles of INXS can be viewed at ARTISTdirect. The solo singles of Michael Hutchence, including the Max Q collaboration can be viewed on Youtube. Readers might also enjoy The Boss covering the classic INXS single Don’t Change last month, whilst performing in Sydney.