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.

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Big Brother Australia vs. Big Brother USA: Who’s the best? (Part 2)

Sonia Kruger hosts Big Brother Australia's 2013 season on Nine Network.

Sonia Kruger hosts Big Brother Australia’s 2013 season on Nine Network.  Credit: Nine Network.

I recently wrote about the differences between Big Brother Australia (BBAU) and Big Brother USA (BBUS), focusing mostly on fundamental game differences and the appearance of both shows.  Now, after watching all of the BBAU series to date, I decided to compare and contrast both countries’ Big Brother offerings a little bit more.

READ: BIG BROTHER AUSTRALIA vs. BIG BROTHER USA: Who’s the best? (Part 1)

For those who haven’t read Part 1 above, I am an American who watches BBAU on delay via Youtube.  BBAU is not aired in the United States on any US TV channel.  Both shows, although sharing the same name, are largely different games.  On BBUS, contestants (called ‘houseguests’) vote to evict one of their own while Australia, like many other countries who air BB, rely on a public vote.  The US show is more competition-based and includes something BBAU doesn’t have: Head of Household (or HoH).  The winner of the HoH competition earns the right to nominate two houseguests for eviction, among other luxuries.

Chima was a BBUS houseguest in 2009.

Chima was a BBUS houseguest in 2009 who was expelled after disobeying Big Brother. Credit: CBS.

Picking right up where I left off in Part 1, the likelihood of houseguests obeying Big Brother seems to be major difference between the two series.  On BBAU, the houseguests largely followed instruction when told not to talk about something.  On BBUS, however, obeying BB is more of a suggestion, not a requirement.  On the BBUS live feeds, houseguests are forbidden from talking about production, diary room sessions or people who have not signed a production waiver.  Houseguests are not allowed to sing, either, regardless of if it is a real song or made up.  Yet, when houseguests do many of the aforementioned no-nos (it happens quite often), they are told to stop typically without any real consequences.  Perhaps the largest example of houseguests disobeying BB was in series 11 (2009) where houseguest Chima refused to go to the diary room after throwing her microphone pack into the pool following a game twist which rendered her Head of Household nominations null and void the week before.  The video clip shows Chima blatantly refusing to go to the diary room after multiple requests from production, leading to her expulsion from the house.

BBAU housemate Mikkayla (right) cries after hearing Ben (left) was evicted from the game.  Housemates later learned Ben's eviction was staged.

BBAU housemate Mikkayla (right) cries after hearing Ben (left) was evicted from the game. Housemates later learned the eviction was staged.  Credit: Nine Network.

Eviction episodes on both shows are polar opposites.  Time and time again, on BBAU, the houseguests uncontrollably wept when a houseguest was voted off.  Tully and Mikkayla were notorious for sobbing as the houseguest left the backyard eviction door.  On BBUS, evicted houseguests are typically maligned by the majority alliance in the house due to houseguests (not America) having the sole eviction votes.  Instead of the entire US cast crying, most are high-fiving, cheering and insulting opposing-side allies of the evictee when they are evicted.  I think the differences in this case boil down to the differences in the BBAU and BBUS games.  Since BBAU housemates don’t vote each other off, the US element of ‘one-upping’ the opposing alliance by voting out one of their members is absent in the Australian game.

Housemates on BBAU are not allowed to talk about nominations.  Several houseguests this year were penalized for doing so.  BBUS, given the inherent changes in game format, encourages nominations talk.  Watching BBAU for the first time this season, it puzzled me as to how good the show would be with banning nomination talk, however I was pleased to see that the Australian show carried its own weight in the topic’s absence.  However, for one week only, BBAU housemates nominated face-to-face and with it, Big Brother allowed nominations to be discussed.  I thoroughly enjoyed this ‘hybrid’ of the BBUS and BBAU formats.  Nominations caused lots of drama and kept the show interesting, at least for this US viewer.  But I can see how allowing continual nomination conversations could take away from other things going on in the house, so I don’t fault BBAU for not allowing it otherwise.

BBAU housemate Tully nominates in the soundproof Nominations Chamber while her fellow housemates look on behind her.

BBAU housemate Tully nominates in the soundproof Nominations Chamber while her fellow housemates look on behind her.  Credit: Nine Network.

One element of BBAU 2013 I thoroughly enjoyed was the Nominations Chamber, a room which had a soundproof booth where houseguests would make their nominations in front of the entire cast.  It was such a difference from the typical nominations ceremony on BBUS, where the HoH would nominate two houseguests in the house dining room while pulling a key out of a box.  But what I didn’t like was how BBAU retired the nominations chamber in the later weeks of the season, save for one week where houseguests’ loved ones helped them nominate from the chamber.  The lack of structure and location of the nominations process took away from the game, in my opinion.

The lack of structure in the BBAU schedule was also a downside of the show.  Several times throughout the 2013 season, Nine Network moved around the order of the episodes.  For example, the eviction episodes were on Monday or Wednesday, depending on week.  The ‘Late Night Feast’ episode, which centered around the weekly party dinner, was scrapped late in the season.  Showdown, which originated this year as a separate episode complete with play-by-play from several people, were cut in lieu of a narrated portion of a regular episode.  Although the changes didn’t largely affect me as an international viewer who sees it on delay, I can imagine it was confusing for the Australian public.

Julie Chen has hosted all 15 Big Brother US seasons since 2000.

Julie Chen has hosted all 15 Big Brother US seasons since 2000.  Credit: CBS.

Although the daily catch-up BBAU episodes were fun and enjoyable for me, I typically disliked the eviction episodes.  Although I believe host Sonia Kruger is a great BB host (on par with BBUS host Julie Chen), the BBAU eviction show format is tiring.  Perhaps the show, at 90 minutes, is just too long.  Most of the show is filler with contrived segments on topics such as ‘will the showmance survive?’ or ‘who is the biggest threat?’  About 3-4 minutes of taped diary room sessions typically fit the bill with these segments.  Another segment includes drawn-out conversations with nominated housemates’ families.  They are all a waste.  I typically skip them while watching.  BBUS’ eviction episodes are 60 minutes, including one catch-up segment, an ‘interaction with the house while live’ segment, a segment where houseguests vote to evict, then finally the eviction and evictee interviews with Chen followed by the HoH competition.  BBUS evictions are more ‘to the point’ and dramatic than BBAU evictions.  One area where BBAU trumps BBUS in this area, however, is that BBAU tends to more thoroughly interview evictees, while Julie Chen interviews the US evictee for about 2-3 minutes before the commercial break.

WATCH: A COMPILATION OF BBUS HOST JULIE CHEN’S “But first…” RUNNING JOKE ON EVERY EVICTION EPISODE

BBAU 2013 intruders.  From top left to bottom right: Justynn, Nathan, Madaline, Boog.

BBAU 2013 intruders. From top left to bottom right: Justynn, Nathan, Madaline, Boog.  Credit: Nine Network.

As a US viewer, intruders were a fairly new concept.  BBUS has never had an intruder enter the game at a later time as seen on BBAU.  The closest BBUS had was in series 5 (2004) where twins were playing the game as one person, switching places in secret every so often.  Later in the game, the secret was revealed to the house and the other twin was allowed to enter the house to play the game individually.  However, even with the novelty of intruders on BBAU, I feel they entered the game way too late (week 9 of a 15-week season).  The intruders this year, except for Boog, were largely very boring — a stark contrast to the very interesting pre-intruder BBAU 2013 cast.  Intruder Nathan even walked off the show less than two weeks after entering the house.  Why waste our time with boring housemates?  I see enough boring houseguests (the majority of the cast) every year on BBUS!

Brendon (left) and Rachel (right) were a powerhouse showmance alliance on BBUS series 12 and 13.  The couple later married after starring on the sow.  CREDIT: CBS.

Brendon (left) and Rachel (right) were a powerhouse showmance alliance on BBUS series 12 and 13. The couple later married after starring on the show. Credit: CBS.

The inclusion of showmances, or romances between housemates, on BBAU was largely different than BBUS.  On BBUS, showmances typically form and the participants are a large force to be reckoned with.  They also seem to egregiously flaunt the relationship to the point of making their fellow houseguests (and viewers) sick at the constant smooching and (quite often) X-rated nightly activities, as seen on the BBUS live feed.  The BBAU showmances, largely Ed and Jade with a few random interactions among other housemates, seemed tame and more modest in comparison.  Perhaps it is because Ed likely doesn’t want to be with Jade after the show, but showmances are not as large of a part of the show as it is in the American series, at least not in the 2013 series.

Overall, I still stand by my original article in saying that BBAU is much better in all aspects than BBUS.  However, several things about BBAU annoyed me a little bit.  Regardless, I’m looking more forward to BBAU’s 2014 season than next year’s BBUS show.  We’ll see what next year brings…

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Further reading

Big Brother has us fooled

Big Brother daily episode guide

Big Brother housemate features, conspiracies & censorship

We’re watching Big Brother

Big Brother’s Executive Producer answers your questions

Big Brother is biased towards Tahan? Proof.

Big Brother Australia vs. Big Brother USA: Who’s the best? (Part 1)

By David

Big Brother Australia 2013 opening sequence.  Credit: Nine Network.

Big Brother Australia 2013 opening sequence. Credit: Nine Network.

The American version of Big Brother is, without question, my favorite summer television show.  I recently started watching the current tenth season of the Australian Big Brother series (via Youtube as it is not aired in the US) and decided to compare, contrast and rate both of the shows’ current series from the perspective of an American viewer.

Big Brother USA 2013 opening sequence.  Credit: CBS.

Big Brother USA 2013 opening sequence. Credit: CBS.

On the surface, the US Big Brother version, which has aired on the CBS television network for 15 seasons, seems very similar to the Australian version, which airs on Nine Network.  A group of people from different parts of the country are locked in a house full of cameras and microphones without any contact from the outside world.  Every week, at least one person is evicted until one is left to win a large sum of money (in the US it is $500,000 USD).  Series 1 of the US show, which aired in 2000, was identical in format to BB AU with the houseguests nominating and the public voting.

Starting series 2, which aired in 2001, CBS revamped the game to make it somewhat similar to Survivor in hopes of getting better ratings, as viewership declined throughout Big Brother’s first season.  There is no longer a public vote for eviction.  A “Head of Household” or HOH (winner determined by competition) nominates two houseguests for eviction.  A weekly “Power of Veto” competition is held and its winner can save one nominee from eviction, keep nominations the same, or (if nominated) can take themselves off the chopping block.  In the latter situation, the HOH would name a replacement nominee.  The houseguests then vote to evict one of the two nominees.  American houseguests are highly encouraged to discuss their nominations and campaign to keep themselves in the house, or to get another houseguest evicted.  As you can imagine, this causes drama and frequent arguments within the house.

Like the Australian show, the US version has seen many twists over the years, some of which include twins playing as one person (secretly switching places every few days unbeknownst to their housemates), returning houseguests, and family members playing together.  The current 2013 season introduced three weekly nominees, the third being nominated in secret by a non-HOH houseguest chosen by the public.

The Big Brother Australia 2013 house, outdoors (top), indoors (right).  Click to enlarge.  Credit: Nine Network.

The Big Brother Australia 2013 house, indoors (top), outdoors (bottom). Click to enlarge. Credit: Nine Network.

Even with the fundamental game differences between the US and Australian versions of Big Brother, I was pleasantly surprised at the Nine Network’s version of the program.  The BB AU house, in terms of layout and decor, is stunning and a huge upgrade from what the US viewers see.  The CBS Big Brother house, which was redesigned and rebuilt in 2007 to include a second floor and a larger floor plan than the original one-story house used in seasons 1-5, is still small and cramped.  Although I don’t know the exact sizes of the BBUS and BBAU homes, I’d predict the entire BBUS home would fit in the garden/pool outdoor area of the BBAU home.

Although CBS does redecorate the US house every year, the finished product often looks very dated with cheap construction, finishes and furniture (of which is often from IKEA).  Simply put, the house doesn’t look that pretty on television.  In comparison, the BB AU house seems to have rich ultra-modern finishes, designer furniture and actually looks like it was built in 2013, unlike the BB US home which I feel looks like it was made in 1992, current retro decor theme notwithstanding. The ‘halfway house,’ a purposely run-down portion of the BBAU home, looks more like the luxurious portions of the BBUS home.  ‘The Glass House,’ an American television show with a premise similar to Big Brother which ran on the ABC network, had a house with construction detail and quality more in line with BBAU than BBUS, so I feel this is proof that CBS decorates the US house on the cheap.

The Big Brother USA 2013 house, indoors (top), outdoors (right). Click to enlarge. Credit: CBS, BigBrotherNetwork.com.

The Big Brother USA 2013 house, indoors (top), outdoors (bottom). Click to enlarge. Credit: CBS, BigBrotherNetwork.com.

Being not too familiar with the original Big Brother game, it was interesting to see it play out on Nine Network.  The cast of the current Australian season seems to be quite entertaining and full of a wide variety of personalities.  In contrast, the BBUS cast always has a few ‘duds’ in terms of boring houseguests.  It is interesting to see Big Brother himself have full conversations with the AU housemates in the diary room and elsewhere.  On the US show, houseguests’ diary room footage is presented as a narration and reaction to already-taped events in the US house.  The US houseguests speak to members of production in the diary room, but it is not shown on TV as a conversation with a singular Big Brother entity as seen on the Australian show.

The CBS show airs three times a week for an hour each episode.  This is in large contrast to the Aussie version, which airs almost 8 hours a week spread over five weekly episodes.  The longer airtime allows Nine Network to better show houseguests and non-game events in the home, understandably due to the public vote.  BBUS has a 24/7 live internet feed which satisfies the in-depth houseguest connection ‘need’ for me so it really doesn’t matter that the CBS episodes only focus on game matters.

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The nomination ceremonies are much more dramatic on the BBAU series, with the ‘nominations chamber,’ a sound-proof transparent booth where the houseguests go to nominate in plain view of their housemates.  On CBS, American houseguests evict from the safety of the diary room, away from view of the housemates.  However, I conclude the US version’s evictions are more dramatic than the Aussie version, often filled with houseguest arguments and insults as the evictee walks out of the front door.

Overall, as an American viewer, I enjoy the ruthless plotting, backstabbing, strategizing and drama-filled atmosphere of the US version of Big Brother, mainly because I’ve been used to it for 15 years.  However, I feel the Australian series makes viewers connect more with the houseguests and it is overall a more interesting show to watch.  Although I highly enjoy the BBUS live internet feed, the actual CBS television episodes are often boring and seem procedural.  Even though the Australian show is vastly different from what I’m used to when I think of Big Brother, I thoroughly enjoy the show and will keep watching as long as possible.

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READ: BIG BROTHER AUSTRALIA vs. BIG BROTHER USA: Who’s the best? (Part 2)

Related blog posts:

Saturday Showdown

Beautifully Twisted

Jessie & Candice nominated

The Opening Show

Let’s Talk About Big Brother

How NOT to write an opinion piece

Geoffrey Barker is a retired journalist, published author and fellow at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Barker’s specialty is defence studies.

For those living under a rock, Mr Barker penned an opinion piece this week for Fairfax which many consider to be full of blatant stereotypes about women journalists. Readers, please take two minutes to read that article which has been condemned as click-bait.

In order to attract attention, opinion pieces like those are usually designed to be controversial and confrontational. Invariably there will be segments of the audience that will disagree or walk away deeply offended. It’s not easy to write such a piece and anonymous commentators can be vicious in their reaction.

Whilst doing hard labour as a journalism undergraduate, this blogger observed that journalism courses are often full of what may be considered physically attractive young women. In many instances, the bulk of the candidates for the qualifications are women. It’s naive to assume that looks do not play a role in obtaining on-camera roles.

But by Mr Barker’s logic, physical attractiveness and intellect (&/or skill) are mutually exclusive. Mr Barker offers no evidence to support his theory. Unfortunately, his article comes across as sham elitist. The inference is that any idiot with a pretty face (&/or other visible assets) can successfully climb the ranks of television journalism. Remember that journalism is a profession in ruinous decline – ensuring the competition for employment is fiercer than ever.

Sexist © 2013 Outtacontext

One of those offended by Mr Barker’s remarks was Ten Late News journalist Hermione Kitson (featured in the unrelated video below) who must be a vacuous dill, according to Mr Barker’s theory. How does one come to this conclusion? Ms Kitson was:

  • a Media/Communications undergrad (Sydney University);
  • selected for an ABC internship &
  • ranked #70 on Maxim Australia’s Hot 100 list (2012).

Damnit, she almost passed Mr Barker’s test to qualify as a serious journalist. Her institution is relevant since Mr Barker takes issue with graduates from ‘undistinguished universities’ and even worse ‘media studies’ graduates with mere ‘diplomas’. One can only imagine what Mr Barker thinks of those who took cadet-ships straight out of high school!

High calbre journalism alumni (including Denton) have been emanating from Bathurst’s Charles Sturt University, one of the new (non-standstone) breeds of progressive regional institution for decades.

Sadly being beautiful precludes the occurrence of intelligence or skill in the journalist. Mr ‘progressive’ Barker makes life much simpler. What a national treasure.

Female journalists (from both public and commercial networks) across the country have savagely vented their disgust on fora such as Twitter. Many websites and newspapers have attempted to debunk Mr Barker’s flawed logic. But here is one of the best; because laughing at this nonsense is perhaps the best strategy in deciphering its message:

…Even if you’re feeling generous this morning, you can’t deny that what [Mr Barker] pulled out of his butt instead was one of the most demeaning, belittling, misogynistic pieces of crap that’s ever been printed in a major newspaper.

In closing, let’s provide Mr Barker with an opportunity to have the last word:

Somebody needs to explain to [these young women] that the world is not created anew every day, that there is little that is new under the sun, and that restraint and curiosity can be useful journalistic tools. They might also be directed to ABC and SBS TV where they can find role models whose outstanding work shows how the job should be done.

Oh no, there is a problem. The hotties have infected the beloved ABC too, Mr Barker. And that can only mean one thing, inherent stupidity. Of course!

Believe or not, Mr Barker is capable of composing sensible prose on public policy as a columnist for the Australian Financial Review.

This is a revised version of the article originally written on Thursday May 2nd, in both composition and links.

Two great artists, one is a better marketer

The first artist being assessed is John Lydon from Public Image Limited. This blogger remembers Public Image Limited rather than the Sex Pistols. In Australia, PIL are known for the following songs:

  • Public Image (1978)
  • This Is Not a Love Song (1983)
  • The Order of Death (1990)
  • Open Up (1993)

The latter became a club anthem, with Lydon on vocals as part of electronic outfit Leftfield. Order of Death featured in various films including the smash hit, Blair Witch Project.

Lydon is touring Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne in April. He markets himself in this manner:

Consider the second artist, Chris Isaak. Isaak’s eleven Australian shows have now been completed. The performance of Isaak & his band received incredible reviews. Even this blogger’s parents said this was one of the finest intimate live shows ever attended.

Isaak & his band Silvertone are known for the following songs:

  • Blue Hotel (1987)
  • Wicked Game (1990)
  • Somebody’s Crying (1995)
  • Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing (1995)
  • Go Walking Down There (1995)

Isaak markets himself in a quite different manner:

In this blogger’s humble opinion, these are both great artists, but one can memorably cultivate controversy. ‘Johnny Rotten’ has been been doing that since the late ’70s. See Richard Branson’s autobiographies, for example. Evidently, acting like a ‘prick’ never gets old.

It’s all fun & games but one part is troubling. Acting like an awful human being (even if it is acting), means ultimately others may think that ‘act’ was the real person. Being remembered after death as a horrible person is probably not something this blogger would intentionally aspire to.