INXS only briefly lived up to its name in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when it charted a ubiquitous pop culture presence. But the funk-influenced pop band has been missing in action ever since power-piped frontman Michael Hutchence died five years ago. A two-disc greatest hits package was released last year, but Atlantic Records's Best of INXS, with two “new” tracks, is the closest thing to a comeback we could wish for from the Aussie band. Who would wish for such a thing?
Yeah, me too. I can't say that I came out at an INXS concert, but the Kick World Tour did open my 15-year-old eyes to a world where men dance and sidle up close to other men, as they coo along with their fawning “girlfriends” over the boys in the band. These many years later, revisiting classics like “I Need You Tonight,” “Suicide Blonde” and “Original Sin” makes for a bittersweet memory trip. Ah, bittersweet, just like the sound of INXS's best work, with its tales of end-of-the-day, one-moment-in-time release and its often melancholic tunes of snappy, jazzy contrasts. Hutchence sang of love lost as the string instruments sighed, saxophone wailed and the drums vented in the gorgeous “Never Tear Us Apart”: “I told you/That we could fly/Cause we all have wings/But some of us don't know why.”
The band's many self-affirming, celebratory lyrics were probably another reason for its appeal to sexually questioning folk, including the group's first U.S. top ten hit, “What You Need.” “Forget about your troubles in life/Don't you know it's not easy/When you've gotta walk upon that line,” Hutchence sang. So he was a bit cryptic in his lyrics. His “Mediate,” after all, serves as the synonym-finder for all positive words rhyming with “ate,” including simple messages such as: “Love your mate/Don't suffocate on your own hate/…Deviate/…Liberate.” (Along with the comical “Like pretty Kate has sex ornate.”) Sadly, Atlantic Records didn't include that here, even if it is one of the group's most memorable songs (and videos). The first new track from this compilation, “Tight,” was originally recorded a decade ago but has been updated with a hip-hop flair. That won't make it a hit. The trance-ish sound added as part of Thick Dick's remix (included on the Tommy Boy CD Maxi-Single) might do the trick for the dance floor, though.
Speaking of ‘80s pop revisited, if you're not tired of those remixed and remade ‘80s tunes that have clogged this year's club sound systems, then does Vic Latino have the CD for you. The Billy Idol-styled DJ snarls at us from the cover of his Vic Latino Presents 80's Now! and many of us are snarling right back at him. Who cares for a remake of Boston's “Amanda” from vocoder-mad, ditsy-sounding Brooklyn Queens? Or Journey's power-ballad “Separate Ways” remade by whiney-voiced Dee Roberts?
I'm all for new artists covering tracks of the old, but if the end result is a complete, uncreative rehash of the original singer's style, please leave it with Soft Cell or Madonna or the Eurythmics. Thank god they let Kim Carnes own her “Bette Davis Eyes,” and this Trance Mix is one of the few songs here worth repeated play. It recalls DJ Sammy & Yanou featuring Do's “Heaven.” Of course that's here too, though Latino has credited this to an Eyra Gail. Talk about a low blow to Do. If these sorry songs see the light of the dance floor, you'll see me wearing earplugs to avoid, well, Corey Hart and his “Sunglasses at Night.”