Release Year: 1990
A band with a mega successful album is a gift and a curse. On one hand, album sales translate to more wealth and fame. On the other, the pressure is on to create equally good or better follow up. Even if a band does an exceptional job on their next album, both media and fans hype it to the point where it pales in comparison to their previous release. INXS most likely felt that pressure when it came time to follow up Kick. X is a solid album, but since they follow the same routine, the album ends up being flat and just decent.
The songs on this album are all pretty good, but very few manage to be memorable or gripping. The best track is the single “Suicide Blonde.” This is the sensual, hot, sex driven INXS fans got a taste of on Kick. With a stuttering harmonica open and Michael Hutchence singing about his then girlfriend Kylie Minogue, the song is another fun, steamy classic for the band. It falls in line with tracks like “Need You Tonight” and “What You Need.” The next track, “Disappear,” is another strong track with a light, upbeat feel good mood to it that instantly gets you moving. There’s something about the vibe that makes you feel like you’re walking on air. And Huthence’s “doo doos” are irresistible. It’s a song that puts you in a good mood making it a stronger track on the album.
From there, it’s standard INXS fare: upbeat songs mixed with elements of pop and rock. A few of the songs expand into different musical genres. “Faith in Each Other” is soulful with a bluesy vibe. Hutchence’s vocals are at their peak, making you wonder how INXS thought they could be successful without him. The song is slick and cool with a killer sax solo putting the mood over the top. It’s a good song about wanting to keep the peace to make things right in the world. INXS go a little harder on “Who Pays the Price.” It has a bit of funk to it with some Western flavor thanks to the harmonica. This slight change in style mixes things up but doesn’t make the song stand out all that well. It’s good, but something it doesn’t grab you right away. Rather it takes a few listens before you start to dig it.
The biggest issue with the album is most of the songs aren’t that exciting even though they’re good. “By My Side” is a great INXS ballad in the same vein as “Never Tear Us Apart.” It has a great opening piano riff followed by Hutchence’s sweet vocals. It’s another one of their slow hits that’ll drift you away to somewhere sweet and relaxing. “The Stairs” is another strong track about life in the city. Despite its big chorus and mellow groove, it doesn’t pack a punch like similar songs. The slinky “Know the Difference” takes a bit to grow on you, but is actually really good. It has a cool electric riff to open the song and Hutchence takes on a spoken word style. There’s even a funky breakdown featuring that hot sax. It’s another fun track that makes you dance, but on the first listen the song is easy to miss.
“Bitter Tears” is a contender for best song on the album. It’s classic INXS all the way; catchy hook, great upbeat music, and a stellar performance from Hutchence. But since it’s buried at the back end of the album, it’s easy to ignore. Aside from this song, the rest of them have the same problem. They’re not bad, rather unremarkable. The thing that makes “Lately” memorable is the sexy, exotic music. The hook isn’t bad, but isn’t an earworm like their past songs. It’s good, but nowhere near their best. Closing tracks “On My Way” and “Hear that Sound” are like the other songs on the album: solid and nice to listen to, but ultimately forgettable.
X is a solid album for INXS, but is nowhere near what they achieved with Kick. It’s unfair to compare the two, but whereas that album was so exciting, kick ass, and memorable, this is one is just good. Most of the songs are forgettable with only one or two being stand outs. Other songs are good, but don’t grab your attention. It could be a case of the band following a safe formula and not straying far from what they’ve done before. They’re not hard hitting, catchy, sexy, or different like their past material. For this album, INXS follows a similar formula they did with Kick and only mix things up on few tracks. Unfortunately, this record doesn’t really keep your attention; you tune it out pretty quickly.