Kick (1987) – ‘Mystify’. Finally, we have arrived at what is considered by many to be the band’s magnum opus, and it’s not hard to see why. Every song on Kick could have easily been a single, and it’s extremely tough to pick just one, hence why I’m about to mention pretty much every song on here. ‘Guns in the Sky’ has a pumping beat that never gets old, and showcases the band’s fearlessness to tackle politics (if slightly dating the song in the process). ‘New Sensation’ must be the first INXS song I ever really heard, with that unmistakable riff, fastly becoming a staple for the band’s live shows. ‘Devil Inside’ is what really got the album released in the first place (trialed on campus radios across the country) and sounds great, as does ‘Need You Tonight’ (a simple riff that became memorable in an instant). The titanic power balled packed into three minutes that is ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ was massive, too. The only ‘easy’ track to pick off is ‘Mediate’, but even that has good intentions and a video homage to Bob Dylan. Kick also features a cover of the Loved Ones’ classic, ‘The Loved One’, which reached the Top 20 a few years earlier, and was subsequently re-recorded for this album. The title track itself, ‘Kick’, is nothing but epic, very nearly missing out on the top spot for me. ‘Calling All Nations’ is pure dance and ‘Tiny Daggers’ is underrated. But, personally, I have to go with ‘Mystify’. That unmistakable piano, accompanied with Hutchence’s gentle voice, culminated in the song that made me explore the band’s discography in the first place. It was my window into INXS. And for that, it has to be essential.
X (1990) – ‘The Stairs’. Picking any one song from X was tougher for me than the band’s previous effort; I find X to be a slightly superior album. ‘Suicide Blonde’ is probably my all-time favourite INXS track, with superb harmonica (echoed live by the multi-faceted Andrew Farriss) that leads into a powerful drumbeat from brother Jon. ‘Disappear’ and ‘Bitter Tears’ are some swaggeringly good tracks with Hutchence performing on all cylinders. ‘Who Pays the Price’ is one of the most overlooked tracks of INXS’ career, and ‘Hear That Sound’ is a truly worthy closer. But, much as I wish to declare the opener the winner, I have to go with ‘The Stairs’. It’s a slower track from the band, building up over the course of the song, but the lyrics are brilliant (‘The nature of your tragedy, is chained around your neck. Do you lead, or are you lead? Are you sure that you don’t care?’ is ineffably genius) and it’s just unskippable. It somehow wasn’t a single (save for a live version released in the Netherlands), but Hutchence himself once asserted that it was the most ambitious song he’d ever written. That’s gotta count for something.
Welcome to Wherever You Are (1992) – ‘Taste It’. Welcome to Wherever You Are seems largely skipped over by casual fans – as does pretty much anything post-X, sadly. And it’s hard to argue that any of the records since stood out half as much; but they still hold some great INXS tunes, nonetheless. ‘All Around’ is an example of one such great rock track, as is ‘Heaven Sent’. There aren’t as many ‘Kicks, no, but there are certainly more ‘New Sensation’s. One of these is my pick for the record, ‘Taste It’. With a video as deliciously hedonistic as the song itself, the chorus oozes raw sexual energy from Hutchence. And boy, it works. ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ deserves an honourable mention, too, though it’s repetitive lyrics are somewhat of a downgrade from ‘The Stairs’.
Full Moon, Dirty Hearts (1993) – ‘Time’. This record really marked the band’s change from the Kick era of mastered pop rock. ‘Days of Rust’ is a clear example of this, as the Aussies tried to embrace the grunge era that was just becoming big at the time. Another reason could be the recent incident Hutchence got into after a fight with a taxi driver one night. He was punched in the head, collapsed, and this ultimately changed his personality; as the thick tendrils of depression took hold. Either way, the result was an album that alienated their loyal longtime fans, and the new crowd, too. Though I do believe the album still has it’s golden moments. After all, the band were still fundamentally guitar-driven, with a mainstream attraction. ‘Days of Rust’ is a good track, as is ‘The Gift’ (one of the big singles of the record), even if doubling down on the band’s new grunge sound. Full Moon, Dirty Hearts also features the unlikeliest of collaborations, between INXS and legendary soul & blues singer, Ray Charles. ‘Please (You Got That…)’ is a surprisingly banging track, and brings that stomp back to the album. ‘The Messenger’ has an infectious riff, but the title track seems like it’s trying too hard to cling onto the ballads of old and misses the mark a little. My pick, though, rather obscurely, is ‘Time’. A pure album track; but it features one of the best hook’s in the group’s history. It never saw the light of day as an international single, but it really should have. It’s one of the more ‘INXS’ sounding songs on the album, too.
Elegantly Wasted (1997) – ‘Elegantly Wasted’. The tenth studio album, and the last to feature Hutchence before his tragic suicide in November of the same year. Even sadder, too, because this album wasn’t received as well as it probably should have. Elegantly Wasted was by no means slated, but by now it had become clear that INXS reached the peak of the career, and they were on the way back down in terms of mainstream popularity. Still, people loved Hutchence and his sexual charisma, which does come out on this record. Especially in the title track, which was an attempt to harken back a decade to Kick. This time, it really worked. ‘Elegantly Wasted’ is a quintessential INXS track, and one of the first I remember hearing from a delve into the band’s ‘Very Best Of…’ compilation. It’s got the swagger, the playful Aussie jeer, and the chorus to match. It’s INXS. ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ is an upbeat track (and close to top position for me) that balanced out the slower ‘Searching’ and ‘Everything’. ‘I’m Just A Man’ and ‘Shake The Tree’ are underrated album tracks, and the closer, ‘Shine’, deserves a mention. Hutchence’s vocals are once again roaring on top form. But the title track shows us that Hutchence was still embracing all the pleasures of life.
Though, not on the inside, of course, as by now depression had taken full hold as he masked it from others. The fight with the taxi driver years before also left him with something more permanent; brain damage that he never disclosed to a soul; wishing not to let it burden others, or change their image of him. He will be forever missed, and forever loved. Over just two decades, Hutchence and his brothers in arms carefully crafted record after record, boasting a slew of successful singles that still sound great today, and deserve to be played loud. Michael Hutchence was very much a figure of outward indifference, but on the inside a fragile soul. A gentle one. And, like the gentlest of flowers, it needs the respect it is owed.