Before the massive success of their album Kick, INXS were no strangers to the charts. This LP finds them gaining notoriety in America and while it’s far from their best work, it’s still a solid effort. Filled with the catchy music and sensual vocals fans come to expect from the band, it also shows them experimenting with different sounds making for some memorable hits and some forgettable tracks.
There’s no question the best song on the record is the opening single “What You Need.” This is classic INXS. Something about the pounding drums and funky rhythm of the guitar makes it so memorable and catchy as hell. Here, they combine several music styles, like funk, rock, pop, and new wave for a distinct sound. Toss in some hot saxophone solos and you have one irresistible groove. It’s a song that’s aged very well over the years, unlike some of the others found on the album. “Listen Like Thieves” has more of a groove and funk vibe with some synth tossed in as a nod to their new wave roots. The music is sleek, funky, and slightly dark; it sounds like something you would hear strolling through a dark alley. It’s one of their strongest songs that doesn’t get enough recognition.
“Kiss the Dirt” and “Shine Like it Does” are mellow tracks with a good sound to them, but the former is the better of the two. This track begins with a riff that starts and stops, teasing the listener with just a taste of the music before they kick in full gear. Though the music here is lighter, it still has a really great beat and vibe that makes you feel good. It’s no secret that Michael Hutchence was a great vocalist, but he shines here as he tones it down and sings softly on the track. When everything grows louder at the end, the band gives the song one last kick before moving on. “Shine Like it Does” doesn’t hold its own when compared to the other songs. There are even some lyrics that come off as cheesy. It’s not a bad song, but one of their most forgettable.
What’s notable about this release are the different sounds found on some of the tracks. While there have already been examples of their blend of rock, funk, and pop, there are some genres that come out of left field. “Three Sisters” is the most obvious example. This instrumental track sets up a weird blend of tropical sounds and pop that catches you off guard. As the song goes on, it includes odd sounds and animal noises to complete the island vibe. When the saxophone comes in it switches to a smooth jazz vibe leaving the listener perplexed. It doesn’t really add anything to the album and may be best if skipped, but it’s interesting to experience once. “One x One” has blaring horns and a simple blues scale riff to give it a rockabilly flavor, while “Biting Bullets” is full on new wave. The music is so upbeat and a staple of the era you picture fans doing the “Dancing in the Dark” dance to it.
Some tracks show off their harder sound that would become prevalent on their later releases. “Good + Bad Times” has a nice groove to it thanks to its rock and funk infused music, but it’s the distorted guitar riff that gives it an edge. The lyrics aren’t much, but the music is great and shows what they would do later on. The closing track “Red Red Sun” seems to take cues from punk rock. It has a fast, upbeat pace and is full of energy. As soon as it starts the listener is tossed head first into the song and won’t escape well until it’s over. The music overall is on the aggressive side showing more of their rock n roll vibe.
Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. As mentioned before, it’s far from their best work, but it’s a solid effort. While some of the songs are forgettable, yet tolerable, others stand out and make the LP worthwhile. If any this release shows how talented and well formed INXS was. Unlike some bands who only find major success from one album, these guys were destined for stardom from the start. If all you know is their hit singles, I suggest you check out this album to experience a different side of INXS.