INXS in elegant return to form

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 1997, 12:00am

The often erratic career of Australian band INXS has taken another upward turn to defy critics who had predicted their imminent demise.

They are back with their 10th studio album, Elegantly Wasted, from which the title- track has entered the British singles charts (Top 20) and is selling well on the Continent.

This suggests a major turnaround after the relative failure of their last album, 1993's Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, which sold fewer than 150,000 copies in the United States. They also witnessed the departure of manager Chris Murphy after 16 years and many industry pundits thought INXS had reached the end of the road.

Remarkably, through all the turmoil, the line-up has remained unchanged for almost two decades. INXS are vocalist Michael Hutchence, keyboardist Andrew Farriss, guitarists Tim Farriss and Kirk Penhily, drummer Jon Farriss and bassist Garry Beers.

They burst on to the international stage with their sixth album, Kick, in 1987, which sold almost five million copies in the US alone. It spawned four Top 10 hits - Need You Tonight, Devil Inside, New Sensation and Never Tear Us Apart.

But the band's last hit, Not Enough Time from 1992's Welcome To Wherever You Is, barely cracked the US Top 30.

After reaching such heights in the 1980s, it appeared INXS may fade away into semi-obscurity.

Defying the odds, Elegantly Wasted offers a multitude of trademark INXS musical textures - heavy on guitars, Hutchence's rich vocals to the fore, and full of the kind of hooks that have always allowed them to tread the fine line between a credible rock band and Top 40 idols.

The process of using four-track and other home-recording equipment was ditched in favour of proper studio equipment to demo all the songs.

Elegantly Wasted 's 11 tracks to some extent chronicle the illustrious yet erratic career of this great rock-pop outfit.

Stand-outs include the funk- driven Searching, the pure pop bliss of Everything, the beautiful autobiographical centrepiece I'm Just A Man, and the poignant introspection of Building Bridges.

In a sense, it's almost as if the album is an INXS time capsule containing examples of their sensibility - past, present and future.

Members had been spending a lot of time on solo projects.