Thursday, November 15, 2012

INXS Kick the Bucket

I reacted to the news this week that Australian new wave supergroup INXS was breaking up after 35 (!) years together the same way I reacted to the death of Ernest Borgnine: "I thought that happened already."

Apparently INXS was playing a show in their home turf of Perth and midway through the show the drummer Jon Farris (one of two Farris brothers in the band) announced to the crowd of 15,000 (!) that this would be the band's last gig. For most people, however, the band was pretty much over once singer and superhunk Michael Hutchence was found naked in his hotel room in 1997, either by suicide or autoerotic asphyxiation (at this point, who's counting?). The band, like so many others, tried to carry on, but never recaptured their early magic.

If you are younger than 35 or so, there's a decent chance you have only a vague idea of who INXS is; their music doesn't get a lot of airplay these days, and they aren't held up as rock messiahs by the rock press. 

It's no wonder: unlike their 80s contemporaries R.E.M., Peter Gabriel and U2, their lyrics never addressed Iran-Contra, exposed apartheid or lionized MLK the way critic's darlings were supposed to. Their lyrics were more of the "I need you tonight," "Never tear us apart" variety, and were really just window dressing for their excellent, tight white funk, a delicious mix of The Rolling Stones and The Doors with a soupcon of Chic.

However, if you were a Generation X white suburban dude in the era (as I was), there's a good chance that INXS was a pretty significant part of your high school or college soundtrack, with at least as much heavy rotation in the 5-CD changer as the aforementioned bands.

They enjoyed a fabulous run of a dozen or so hits that began in 1983 with "The One Thing" and ended in 1990 with "Suicide Blonde." They were the kind of can't-miss tunes you could put on when you'd had a bunch of beers and needed to take the party up a notch. One of my early favorites was a tune called "Don't Change."

When I was a junior at the University of Connecticut, INXS played homecoming weekend, only a week or two before they broke big with their record Kick. I had meant to get tickets, but for some reason didn't get around to it. The night before the show, I was at a dorm keg party and a friend said she had two second-row tickets she wasn't using. I bought the tickets and took my new girlfriend, and it was a fantastic show. They were heartthrobs but they were gifted musicians, and as tight musically as just about any band I've seen. The highlight for me was their new tune "New Sensation," which of course became a big hit months later. I remember thinking it had a Stones-like swagger, and I was correct.

INXS may have not been an "important" band per se, and I don't think they have been bantered about as inductees for the elitist Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but their music served a crucial, unforgettable role as the musical accompaniment to several magical years of pounding beers, chatting up coeds and telling jokes, and for that I am eternally grateful.

RIP INXS. Since this time could be the last time I ever blog about INXS, so let's go out with my favorite INXS song, "This Time," from 1985's Listen Like Thieves.

Get What You Need from INXS on iTunes here.


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