Hippo Manchester
December 8, 2005

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INXS, Switch

Burnett/Epic, 2005

A

Click and Clack — the Car Talk guys — once answered a call-in question about the “soul” of car. The question boiled down to: if you replace a car’s engine, is it the same car? The Car Talk fellows said no, it wasn’t, because the engine houses the car’s soul.

I mulled a similar question while listening to Switch, the first INXS album released since the band’s frontman Michael Hutchence was found dead in a hotel room in 1997. Other bands, notably AC/DC, have survived the replacement of their “engines” and come back stronger than ever. AC/DC recorded Back in Black two months after the death of lead singer Bon Scott, filling his shoes ably with Brian Johnson. And, with the help of producer Rick Rubin, AC/DC’s latest work — 1995’s Ballbreaker and 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip — is some of its best.

So why not INXS, the band that gave ‘80s New Wave a pair and broke through its customary androgyny with hits like “Need You Tonight” and “Devil Inside”?

J.D. Fortune, INXS new frontman (who got the job through a reality TV show, sounds enough like Hutchence and enough like himself to deserve the job. He’s not a tribute act; he’s a singer in the same vein as the former frontman. Hutchence started falling apart in the early ‘90s, dragging INXS with him. Fortune’s strong sexy vocals bring the band back to where it was before Hutchence started to lose it.

The New Wave-meets-funk flavor of the band lends itself well to the 2000s style of pop. Switch works well as album, bringing the in-their-prime INXS of the ’80s into today, with enough of a twist that you can’t accuse the band of sticking with a safe format.  Standouts include “Devil’s Party” and “Pretty Vegas,” songs on which Fortune shares writing credit.

As a child of the ’80s (I graduated high school in 1989, just after INXS’ first peak) and a fan of the band, I’m happy to see the comeback.

— Robert Greene