Sound — 9
Here is the largely underrated "Elegantly Wasted," INXS' last album before the untimely death of lead singer Michael Hutchence. Such a shame because Hutchence's skills as a vocalist were unparalleled to many and coupled with his stage presence heavily aided INXS to become one of the premier Australian rock bands next to AC/DC and one of the greatest live bands ever. INXS' sound is a fusion of pub rock and funk with some dance thrown in for that extra flavour shot. They had their popularity in native Australia with a good impression on the United States but their 1987 album, "Kick" is what made them one of the biggest, chart-topping bands of the 80s and onward, paving the way for new found acclaim, Wembley and other well-deserved goodies. The band explores a newer tone in some of the songs. For instance, the tunes, "Building Bridges" and "Searching" are like that of jazz, some R&B (no techno stuff, by the way) and a very slight tinge of reggae. They have also traded in their trademark flamboyant style heard on tracks such as "New Sensation", "Suicide Blonde", "What You Need", "Need You Tonight" and other songs that shot them to popularity for a harder-edged acoustic style on a few songs that is easy to feel, ecstatic and can be very moving. Songs that exemplify this are "I'm Just A Man", "Don't Lose Your Head", "We Are Thrown Together" and "Everything." They still regain that funky rock element on the title track, "Show Me (Cherry Baby)" and "Girl on Fire", however, the only one up there with there with their previous masterworks is "Elegantly Wasted." Also, it seems as though INXS has predominantly taken the backseat to frontman Hutchence's fantastic vocals, stage persona and his greater fame than the other band members. It seems as though one of the most explosive and expressive instruments has rode shotgun and stuck to catchy yet genius riffs. Well, guitarists Kirk Pengilly, Andrew and Tim Farriss have shed that image to a degree with work on the tunes, "Don't Lose Your Head", "Show Me (Cherry Baby)" and "Shake The Tree", thought in terms of solos, the band has always been more comfortable with relying on guitarist-saxophonist Kirk Pengilly for his brilliant sax breaks. So, shred lovers, I doubt this record, this band is for you.
Lyrics — 10
Lyrically, this record is perhaps INXS' finest. Michael Hutchence's popularity somewhat overshadowed his high talents in crafting beautiful or poetic or slamming songs and made him out to be another womanizing playboy, good-looking lead singer. But he was so much more than that and this album showcases it magnificently. Don't get the idea that this album was the only one that did this. Check out "Kick" or "X" and you know that he had the magic. Hutchence never did this alone though. His songwriting tandem with keyboardist, guitarist and key composer Andrew Farriss has wowed listeners everywhere and without Farriss, INXS would never be that kick ass, get-to-you band that they are. But it's Hutchence's words that eat you right up without a speck left behind. The songs, "Don't Lose Your Head" and "I'm Just A Man" are standouts. Andrew Farriss came to Hutchence with the chord sequence for "Don't Lose Your Head" with the name, "Where The Sun Always Shines" and it transformed from what was most likely a tale of a wonderful place or feeling to an angry smack in the face. "I'm Just A Man" is the singer's look in the mirror at his life which is by far the most fascinating and passionate song on the record. He sings of his father's constant leaving for his occupation, his brother's then-self-destructive behaviour and his sister's pains at romance, insisting that no matter what his family and he have gone through, they "still have what's necessary to go on." Andrew Farriss once described himself as "an incredibly lucky guy who happened to have a genius as my best friend." He was spot on. The lyrics weave into an intricate, expressive tapestry when doubled with the subtle yet driving guitars and Andrew Farriss' excellent composing. You would think that a song like "Don't Lose Your Head" would have a darker, more sinister sound to it but the way Hutchence and Farriss tape it up is better than any other way. The title track is reminiscent of the INXS of the late 80s where their tunes would shake and move you and you'd feel so ALIVE! Hutchence was one of the top five singers of the popular music scene. I'm not even at the whole of his performance yet. Unlike many other singers, sadly more abundant it seems, he wouldn't be afraid to belt it out and do it well. His soulful cry, his seducing mumble, his passionate declarations, he, like every other record of INXS', sets the tone and always rose the bar.
Overall Impression — 9
Compared to INXS' previous works, this is right up there with "Kick", their masterpiece. It exceeds the somewhat to downright lacking albums the group released after 1990's "X." The mid 90s were a period of so-so albums that yielded some decent and few great tracks that they trashed with this record. Sadly, this album never got the recognition it so richly deserved. It got reviews that were satisfied, disappointed and for the most part, mixed. I consider this to be insane. What's even sadder is that Michael Hutchence died later that year. In my opinion it is one of the premier albums of the year of 97. Compared to other bands....I don't know. INXS was a pretty different engine than other popular bands. The most impressive songs on the album are "Elegantly Wasted", "Everything", "Don't Lose Your Head", "We Are Thrown Together" and "I'm Just A Man." As much as I adore this record, it's not without weakness. Tunes like "Show Me (Cherry Baby)", "Shake The Tree" and "She Is Rising" are either dull, to much of the same going on or uninteresting. Nw, if this record was stolen from me, I'd trip out and most likely immediately look for it, if I had to, I'd order it. Many songs from this album are among the most played on my iPod. So, please, do yourself a favor and listen to this record. I love it and perhaps you'll get sucked into Michael Hutchence and INXS' vortex like I did. Cheers!