Deep Album Cuts Vol. 99: INXS

This week, November 22nd marks the 20th anniversary of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence's death. And I wanted to take a moment to look at the legacy of both Hutchence and the band, who were absolutely ubiquitous when I grew up, because I've really come to value them more in recent years and appreciate the unique sound and cultural niche they achieved. When I was recording an album a couple months ago, I remember spending like half of a day in the studio ranting to my producer and a bandmate about how we really don't value INXS enough. Every time I hear "New Sensation" or "Don't Change" or just about any of their hits -I don't think there's really much in the way of duds in the whole bunch -I'm just amazed at how well their stuff has aged, and have taken more of an interest in their albums beyond the singles.

INXS deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Wild Life
2. Biting Bullets
3. Love Is (What I Say)
4. On My Way
5. Guns In The Sky
6. Soul Mistake
7. Follow
8. Same Direction
9. Doctor
10. Tiny Daggers
11. Strange Desire
12. Johnson's Aeroplane
13. The Stairs
14. Good + Bad Times
15. To Look At You
16. Calling All Nations
17. Full Moon, Dirty Hearts
18. Communications
19. Lately
20. Deliver Me
21. The Loved One
22. Shine Like It Does

Track 9 from INXS (1980)
Track 7 from Underneath The Colours (1981)
Tracks 6 and 15 from Shoobah Shoobah (1982)
Tracks 3 and 12 from The Swing (1984)
Tracks 2, 8, 14 and 22 from Listen Like Thieves (1985)
Tracks 1, 5, 10, 16 and 21 from Kick (1987)
Tracks 4, 13 and 19 from X (1990)
Tracks 11 and 18 from Welcome To Wherever You Are (1992)
Track 17 from Full Moon, Dirty Hearts (1993)
Track 20 from The Greatest Hits (1994)

INXS's career is, like many other careers in popular music, a nice little symmetrical mountain: over the course of their first 6 albums, they climbed up the charts, first in Australia and then the rest of the world, culminating in the multiplatinum Kick, and from there they continued to make hits but gradually slid from prominence. Although they had roots in new wave and post-punk, and rose to the mainstream more or less parallel with Depeche Mode, The Cure, and U2, their success was always seen much less as a triumph of any particular subculture. INXS was a dance band with a saxophonist and a charismatic Morrisonesque frontman, and they just never seemed tortured or earnest or political enough to be part of the alternative rock canon. They were caught between worlds a bit like Duran Duran (who, incidentally, went in the studio for Notorious not long after INXS did for The Swing). I loved The 1975's last album, but I could tell that the frequent comparisons to INXS that they got weren't always meant as compliments, and they annoyed people precisely for straddling that same pop/alternative divide.

Even though I think people generally remember how big INXS were circa 1987, the fact that they aren't R&R Hall of Famers like U2 or pop icons like Madonna and MJ or a hard rock crossover act like Def Leppard or GnR has left them in that odd middle ground. Michael Hutchence was, alongside  George Michael, the preeminent sexy white man of the era, but even George Michael was canonized more as a beloved icon by the time he passed away last year. And I think it's been forgotten that right up through about 1993, you usually couldn't watch MTV or listen to a rock station for an hour without hearing a new or old INXS song. But by Welcome To Whenever You Are, their wave had crested, and it felt a bit like they were trying to stay current by following the lead of Achtung Baby (dig the vocal effect on "Communication"). And it certainly didn't help their legacy that INXS took the tacky approach of creating a TV game show to select a new frontman, a Hutchence soundalike. Or that the press really never knew how to address Hutchence's death, which was ultimately ruled a suicide after lots of nervous tittering about an auto erotic asphyxiation accident that made his tragic death at 37 years old into a dirty joke.

For some reason, INXS's final album with Hutchence, 1997's Elegantly Wasted, is missing from streaming services. So the latest recording on here is "Deliver Me," one of two new tracks recorded for 1994's The Greatest Hits. Another song that appears on the U.S. edition of that compilation is "The Stairs," despite the fact that it was never released as a single outside the Netherlands, and despite the fact that bigger hits from X like "Bitter Tears" were left off the compilation. But "The Stairs" is a great song that the band was proud of, so it warrants inclusion here. Likewise, "Shine Like It Does" provided the title for the 2001 best-of collection Shine Like It Does: The Anthology, but it was never a single and seemed like a perfect closer here. I remember the first time I listened to Kick and being surprised by "Guns In The Sky," one of the shortest and weirdest opening tracks on any career-defining blockbuster album. And as I've delved into the rest of their albums, I've continued to find those kind of odd and interesting outliers that I've tried to collect here alongside the tracks that sound like they could've been massive hits.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
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