Friday, March 07, 2014

INXS - X - 1990

INXS hold a rather personal significance for me. They were the first cassette tape I bought new and they were the first CD I bought. One of those two was "Kick," and the other was the wonderful album "X."

INXS was a six piece from Australia who'd worked very hard to climb up a bit at a time, only to see it all come tumbling down in 1997 when lead singer Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Sydney hotel room, having committed suicide. (There were reports that he'd died of auto-erotic asphyxiation but the coroner dismissed those for a lot of reasons. Not, honestly, that suicide is that much better.) The band's tried to come back a number of times, but Hutchence really was face of that band, and the other voices have always felt like they were just holding the chair for someone who isn't ever coming back.

"X" followed on the heels of the wildly successful "Kick." It's funny, when the band started recording "Kick," they set out to make an album where, according to Kirk Pengilly (guitar/saxophone) "every song could be a single." When they turned the album into Atlantic Records, the record company, reportedly, hated it. They said they'd never get it played on rock radio. According to INXS's manager, Atlantic claimed "it was suited for black radio." Despite their protests, they agreed to release "Kick" in 1987, and good thing they did. "Kick" went on to be six times platinum and had four top ten hits. It was the band's most successful album.

Three years later, "X" dropped, and it did well, but not as well as "Kick." It eventually ended up double platinum, which is nothing to sneeze at. It had two hit singles and two other singles that were relatively big. Critics were a little less kind, simply because they wanted it to be bigger than "Kick," and I'm not really sure that was possible. "Kick" was lightning in a bottle, and it's hard to capture that same kind of magic twice. The songs on "X" were in the same vein as "Kick," but were colored in a bit more, and yet, also a little less subtle.

"Suicide Blonde" opens the album with a squeal of harmonica and then a heavy guitar chord and a throbbing bass line. The song was written about pop star Kylie Minogue, who was Hutchence's girlfriend at the time. It's slinky and yet it chugs along like a machine. This was sort of the band's m.o. for the album - play into Hutchence's neo-Jim Morrison presence and back it with a blend of new wave and pub rock with just a bit of funk.

"X" also features my favorite INXS track, the more soft spoken "The Stairs." It wasn't even a single here, but it was the song that latched onto my psyche when I first heard it. I remember hanging outside of the church I was confirmed in (having to go through confirmation class - and no, before you ask, I don't believe in any of that, but the things we do for family) listening to the tape on my walkman, waiting for my ride home.

It seems like the song most people know from "X," though, is "Disappear," which was certainly the most new wave song on the album, even though new wave as a music movement was in its death knells by then. I think the song appeared in a few movies at the time, and it certainly got a lot of radio play in the midwest, where I grew up. And, really, any excuse to show you this video, which is so wonderfully late 1980s, just in 1990.  Anyhow, "X" is a great album and INXS is still missed.

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