Although they’re still with us, INXS really ended in 1997 with singer Michael Hutchence’s demise in a Sydney hotel room. In death, just as he did in life, Hutchence still dominates the otherwise unchanged sextet.
What a seemingly mismatched bunch they were: five glorified pub rockers and Hutchence, arguably the most sexually-charged Renaissance man pop music has produced. Even in the 1980s when major labels indulged bands like well-meaning but hopeless parents, five albums without making a breakthrough was pushing it, even though INXS had conquered their native Australia. Then, for reasons far from clear, at their sixth attempt, despite initial label apathy, Kick turned INXS into global stars.
Hindsight makes things clearer. Everything gelled like it hadn’t before and would never do again. Hutchence’s backers stopped plodding and started sprinting and soaring on the finger-clicking Mystify, the jagged near-funk of Guns in the Sky and the irresistible sweep of the title track.
Hutchence too was at the peak of his game. He oozed sex with such enthusiasm that when he whispers “every single one of us, the devil inside” on Devil Inside, he sounds almost possessed. And that priapism underpinned every musical move Kick made. By some magical aligning of the planets, Hutchence had shed the cod-Jaggerisms which had so stymied him and his band. And on Need You Tonight, he almost sounded vulnerable. Almost.
This 25th anniversary edition adds two extra discs, a DVD and some luxurious packaging. The DVD’s promo videos and live versions tell you all you need to know about Hutchence, but the CDs give Kick extra depth. As ever, demo versions are demo versions for a very good reason (i.e. not meant to be heard any more than two-wheeled cars are meant to be driven), but there’s only three here and, similarly, there’s only three superfluous live versions. The extended, original-era mixes and B sides show a band delighting in extending themselves, particularly on the aptly titled Kick Ass remix of Guns in the Sky.
They may not have been important or especially influential, but for a moment, INXS were peerless. This is that moment.
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