INXS – Definitive INXS (2002)
When I saw that I had another INXS album to review, I cracked open a bottle of Fosters Gold to get me in the mood and settled down to enjoy the music. The only other album I own by INXS, apart from this ‘best of’ compilation is “Kick” (reviewed on Day 15) and the two combined probably supply as much INXS as I could ever want to own. The Sydney-based band have produced some fantastic songs over the years but, while I can listen to this and thoroughly enjoy it, they will never be one of my favourite bands. This collection, at twenty-one songs, provides an excellent overview of their career up until the death of charismatic lead singer Michael Hutchence in 1997 (their first studio album was released in 1980, although it wasn’t until their fifth album, 1985’s “Listen Like Thieves”, that they would taste widespread success) and certainly features all of their best known and loved songs and a few that they probably shouldn’t have bothered including – the superfluous and horribly ordinary cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” for one.
There are plenty of massive hits to be enjoyed here. “Need You Tonight”, one of their most memorable tracks, has an immense riff and the beats are tight and smart, “What You Need” is a piece of catchy Eighties pop with light, breezy verses and slamming, crashing choruses, “Disappear” follows the same formula with the same success, the overblown “Baby Don’t Cry” features an orchestra, making them sound like they’ve collaborated with Tears For Fears and “Elegantly Wasted”, which I hated when I first heard it, is now oddly appealing. The piano-led “Mystify” is another commercially-appealing, hook-laden piece of pop, “Suicide Blonde” is decent albeit a bit samey, but the dramatic, magnificent “Never Tear Us Apart” remains Hutchence and INXS’ finest hour and, if you needed one reason to buy an INXS album, it should be that song. Other notably good songs on this collection are “Listen Like Thieves”, which has always reminded me of A-ha, “New Sensation”, which features an irresistible riff and more Eighties keyboards than you can shake a stick at and the fantastic driving riff of “Devil Inside” which grows in stature and appeal the longer the song goes on. Some of these tracks are just too good to ignore.
There are, however, quite a few less-than-stellar tracks on this compilation which dilute the quality of the album significantly. “Shining Star” is a trite, lyrically and musically banal song which has me reaching for the ‘skip’ button, “Original Sin” (recorded with Nile Rodgers and Daryl Hall), which appears to be about mixed-race relationships, hammers home the point with a sledgehammer and now sounds horribly dated, whilst “The Gift” is sonic sludge that never quite gets out of first gear. The closing two tracks, “Salvation Jane” and “Tight” are completely forgettable, the latter sounding like a jam which happened to get recorded and finishes off this compilation in an extremely disappointing manner. My edition of this album also features a bonus CD with three live tracks, a couple of radio edits and a remix and, frankly, isn’t worth the cost of the plastic it is burned on. All-in-all, this album is well worth getting if you have nothing else by the band (and it really is all you need unless you particularly love INXS), but I believe they could have done a much better job of this by being a little more selective about the tracks they included. Quality over quantity would have actually made this album the “Definitive” collection the title implies it is, instead of loading all the genuine hits at front of the disc and letting it fizzle out towards the end. Still, that’s what the ‘stop’ button is for, right?