Atlantic Records, 1987

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


With all the hype in the last few months over the death of Michael Hutchence, it would have been easy to pick up any of INXS's albums and declare them works of art - even if they might not have been deserving of such words of praise.

Now that the hoopla has, for the most part, calmed down, I decided to dust off one selection from their discography -- their 1987 release Kick. While INXS had made a name for themselves in the States prior to the release of this album, it was Kick that catapaulted them into superstardom -- and over a decade later, it's still very tasty.

With Hutchence as the "pretty-boy" front man to the group and brothers Andrew, Tim and John Farriss providing a good portion of the musical backbone, INXS was poised to strike America by storm after capturing our attention with Listen Like Thieves. The effect the music had on our radio waves and conscious selves was tremendous; of the twelve songs on Kick, I count no less than six which still get significant airplay.

"Devil Inside" is a quirky little ditty, but is hardly the best song of the hits. That honor is shared among a few tracks - "New Sensation" has the power to make you get up and dance with its charmingly addictive guitar line and strong bass work provided by Garry Gary Beers. "Need You Tonight" is another song whose rhythmic beat locks you in and grabs you by the ears (though its counterpart song "Mediate" shows a bit of a loss of originality). And the clincher -- "Never Tear Us Apart," complete with slicing sax solo by Kirk Pengilly.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Of the remaining hits, "Mystify" is a weak attempt to capture a combination of doo-wop and light pop, though it is not a terrible song by any stretch. On the other hand, I don't understand what people see in "Guns In The Sky," a song that just fails to impress me.

Just on the strength of these seven songs, Kick is secured its place in the annals of rock history. But the true shining moments come in the last three songs - that's right, the "non-hits". The title track shows the most musical creativity and variety on the album next to "Never Tear Us Apart," and could have been a hit in and of itself. "Calling All Nations" is a solid effort that is just as enjoyable, while "Tiny Daggers" is a fitting close to what could have been the best album of INXS's career.

It also proved to be the beginning of the end of the glory days for the band; their follow-up release X would only spawn one top 10 hit in "Suicide Blonde," and their fates continued to spiral downward from there -- in some cases, undeservedly so.

The only real weakness I can find in this album is INXS's reliance on one chord-progression themes. "Guns In The Sky" is a prime example, as is "Need You Tonight" - for the most part, the songs are the same licks repeated over and over again. Sure, I know the Rolling Stones have made this a career -- doesn't make it right. At times, I would have preferred to hear a little more variety in the songs. However, I will concede that on tracks like "Need You Tonight," they use the effect to their advantage.

Of course, with Hutchence's death at the end of 1997, it's impossible not to dwell a bit on his role in the band at this time. Remember that the music video was still at the height of its popularity, though it had hit its peak and was starting to decline a bit. Hutchence's boyish good looks and strong vocal performances made him a natural for the cameras, as well as on the radio waves. This, kids, could be why Kick was the right album at the right time.

It's truly a shame that INXS was never able to match the success they enjoyed with Kick -- there's a good reason why this album is considered the best of their career, and is definitely worth investing in.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.