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INXS - Switch Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 January 2006
performance 7
sound 7
released 2006

It’s tempting to simply ignore this INXS reconfiguration. After all, the search that landed J.D. Fortune, the band’s new singer, took place during a freaking TV reality show. But listening a few times to Switch makes it increasingly difficult to sincerely question the band’s choice of a replacement vocalist, and equally hard to turn a cold shoulder to this attempted comeback release.
For starters, Fortune sounds a whole lot like the late Michael Hutchence, the group’s original singer. Whether he’s gutting it out on the highlife rocker “Pretty Vegas” or softening up to “Afterglow,” a ballad worthy of U2, this album’s lead vocals play out just like a typical INXS recording of the past.

Even with this successful first step, however, the jury’s still out on the group’s ultimate career rebound. Keep in mind that the music world is filled with an ever-increasing influx of tribute bands, many of which sound like carbon copies of the originals. What could be sadder than becoming one’s own tribute band? Putting into service this act’s studio sound is only half the battle; INeXtS, if you will, still needs to prove it can pull off its rock return live. The concert stage will be an even harder authenticity test, because Hutchence oozed charisma and a contagious sexuality during his prime. His star quality, rather than the group’s songs and/or sound, is what initially set INXS apart from the rest of the ‘80s rock pack.

If you care to compare the old with the new, nothing on Switch matches the touching vulnerability of the old INXS hit “This Time,” nor do any of these fresh tracks percolate like “What You Need.” Even so, there are still a number of memorable songs here. Lyrically, this is mostly sex music, while sonically it comes off a bit like party music for people who don’t bang their heads to bludgeoning heavy metal nor get jiggy with R&B. “Hot Girls,” for instance, is a straight-out gust of lust, while “Pretty Vegas” is set in the ultimate party town. The overall aural vibe of this disc resides someplace between hard rock and soft soul.

Fans of the band’s established sound will immediately warm up to the wailing sax solos that jump out of both “Devil’s Party” and “Perfect Strangers,” and also recognize the overtly electronic keyboard sounds underpinning “Hungry.” “Never Let You Go” is perhaps the most daring audio moment in the bunch. It has a lounge feel running through it, so it comes off a little like something out of the swinging ‘60s. It’s ever cool, in an Austin Powers way.

With Switch, INXS should prove a few of its doubters wrong; the band – at least for now – is still very much alive and well. This CD may not make you trash your older INXS catalogue, but it can sit comfortably with the group’s previous releases. It might even make you interested in seeing how the next disc turns out.

This is a tightly produced work. Guy Chambers somehow retained many of the aural elements that make INXS what it is, without ever allowing it to come off as dated. These tunes are packed with multiple instruments, yet they don’t get crowded or cluttered. There’s no aural excess with this new INXS.

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