Review Summary: INXS' critical and commercial peak is an excellent dance-rock hybrid with tough rockers and affecting ballads and every band member producing something special.
Produced by Chris Thomas
UK chart: 2
US chart: 3
The death of Michael Hutchence in 1997 cast a shadow over INXS' career and despite genuine attempts at re-capturing their mid-1980's peak, they are a band without the non-musical soul Hutchence provided. Frankly, his tragic demise was a full stop on a lingering question mark on the relevance of the band throughout their downfall in the 1990's.
However, before grunge, drugs and Paula Yates, INXS were a great singles band throughout the 1980's. "The One Thing", "Don't Change", "Original Sin", "What You Need" and "Listen Like Thieves" are classic radio hits and on their sixth album they managed to stretch their musical ability and ambition over the course of an album and Kick
is the result.
The opener Guns In The Sky
is an anthemic rock song like a cross between the rumbling funk of Prince and power chords of fellow countrymen AC/DC, the drums pound as Hutchence grunts and growls, the riff comes in and Hutchence tells his audience:
"Now take your hands and raise them up,
into the air that's all around ya.
Now bring 'em down,
like a clock at two.
Shake your head,
you know what to do"
Inspiring stuff and despite its relative brevity is a good introduction to the album.
The first single from Kick
was Need You Tonight
, a song that needs no introduction. The legendary breakbeat, Hutchence's whisper "come over here"
riff. INXS' only number one single in the US (it reached no.2 in the UK re-released later that year) and it's one of their very best songs despite a showcase for Andrew Fariss and Michael Hutchence's songcraft and Thomas' production rather than a genuine band effort. Hutchence sings with warmth and soul as he locks the world outside and dismisses the fake emotion as he invites the woman over ("So, slide over here and give me a moment"
") pleading "I've got to let you know"
over a subtle and spidery guitar run. "I need you tonight, 'cos I'm not sleeping"
he admits before the band provides appropriate backing vocals for the final verse ("I'm lonely!"
) and the music dies down and Hutchence simply says "you're one of my...kind"
before seguing into Mediate
(or "Meditate" according to some pressings), a dream-like mantra which recalls the more experimental side of INXS. It's decent despite nearly slipping into sub-Marley/Lennon piety.
The four other singles were similarly successful. New Sensation
opens with an instantly-recognisible sinewy guitar line and Hutchence never sounded more confident as a frontman. The lyric "don't let the pain take over you"
still makes me wince but the stomping chorus and insistent guitar line make up for it and was a deserved hit. Devil Inside
is reminiscent of the Roxy Music-meets-Prince rock n' soul of Shabooh Shoobah
with Hutchence's husky, lusty voice and thumping overdriven guitar and excellent dance beat. Eventually Hutchence gives it up for the music and the climbing, New Order-style synths carry the song to its conclusion.
If you've seen the director's cut of "Donnie Darko" you'll know Never Tear Us Apart
. It's one of INXS' most extraordinary songs, the faux-orchaestral synth-based arrangement, the gentle percussion, the dramatic pauses and ominous bass and the wonderful saxophone solo from Kirk Pengilly that comes in at just
the right time. The subtle backing vocals from the rest of the band back up one of Hutchence's best vocal performances and most affecting lyrics especially in the second verse:
"I was standing
You were there
Two worlds collided
And they could never tear us apart"
It's simple but it's sweet and is one the highlights of the album.
The final single; Mystify
is another excellent swinging soul tune (complete with fingers clicking!), Tim Fariss adds some tough riffs to counter the blue-eyed soul of the music but it's a testament to the underrated songwriting partnership of Andrew Fariss and Michael Hutchence.
In the middle are two nice throaways, a cover of The Loved One
by a similarly-named band fits in well with the album. It's distinctly bluesy and very 1960's in its ersatz British invasion style but it's a good song and the band really have fun performing it. Wild Life
is a redemptive tribute to urban decadence with a great staccato riff, vocal trill and subtle, twinkling keyboards that rises out of the mix and Hutchence is a dead ringer for his spiritual predecessor, Mick Jagger when he sings "I gotta learn some respect, that's what I have, what I have for you"
The album finishes with a good hat-trick, Kick
is an urgent, swinging pop-rocker with excellent saxophone from Kirk Pengilly to punctuate Hutchence's verses, followed by the Stones-y, chopping, swaggering Calling All Nations
with some sweet lyrics ("you don't have to be rich, you don't have to be famous, you just have to have a little bit of patience"
) and is one of INXS' best rock songs where lead guitarist Tim Fariss really shines. The album concludes with Tiny Daggers
, a mid-tempo soft rock song with chiming keyboards on the intro and tasteful solo in the middle, a good band effort and a perfect ending to a great album.
INXS were never great after this, follow-up X
failed to match expectations and despite maintaining popularity in their homeland and Europe, their music suffered at the indifference of their record company and US audience. Still, every band from Maroon 5 to Orson to Scissor Sisters owe this album a debt. A danceable and joyful blend of rock, pop, soul and funk that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1987.
Need You Tonight
Never Tear Us Apart
Calling All Nations