For a brief moment, this Australian band was on top of the world
INXS’s biggest album, Kick, has just received the deluxe anniversary treatment. Titled Kick30, the new, 3-CD, 1-Blu Ray set features the original album in remastered form, plus a treasure trove of demos, dance remixes and live cuts, giving a rare look into the creation process of one of the biggest-selling albums of the 1980’s.
Five hit singles, multi-platinum, worldwide sales, and videos in heavy rotation at MTV. Yet, no one could’ve seen the runaway success of Kick coming – not even INXS themselves.
When we first met the band, they were dining at a massive table during the video to “The One Thing.” Honestly, they looked and sounded like most bands that were in heavy rotation on MTV in 1982. Next up, 1984’s “Original Sin” was tentative, but did show off an R&B influence. That was followed by 1985’s Listen Like Thieves which was embraced by college radio, with singles like “This Time” and “Shine Like It Does,” while Top 40 grabbed the insistent “What You Need.” Yet, no one was prepared for what came next.
Released in the fall of 1987, college radio was the first to jump on Kick, fueled by the band’s history with the format. Then, radio latched on because there’s some killer guitar riffs throughout. But, there was also something new – not just a hint at dance music, but a full-on immersion.
Kick’s lasting impact is it’s mass appeal and versatility
At its core, Kick is an album to shake your ass too. Sure, U2 was garnering all the Grammys for the Joshua Tree, but no one was clubbing to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” That’s what sets Kick apart – it’s a solid record that just about everyone should like.
“Need You Tonight” was monumental – there was something really primal about this song – insanely sexy, with an hypnotic drum loop, fat bass line, layered guitar licks, with Michael Hutchence cooing over top. It was a bold move from a band who had been pegged as New Wave lightweights. That track segued effortlessly into “Mediate,” a stream-of-consciousness piece that bordered on rap.
Let’s not forget a key element here: the band had always tried ballads, as far back as “Don’t Change” and “Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain),” but “Never Tear Us Apart” was a huge step forward – a smoldering slice of synth strings and Duane Eddy guitar, culminating in that phenomenally psychotic sax solo.
Although a lot of the tracks were dance-oriented, there was still plenty of diversity, like the guitar rock of “The Loved One,” or the finger snapping “Mystify,” or the Motown ode “Kick.”
Disc two, titled “Demos, Mixes and More,” kicks off with the fantastic “Move On (Guitar Version),” which was oddly left off the album (the original mix of the song is also included, and isn’t quite as good). Of the live tracks, “Kick” shows the band could really find the groove and roll with it in front of an audience.
Several b-sides are included, like “I’m Coming Home,” the flip to “Need You Tonight,” which features a thumping bass line and some goofy, guttural vocals, while “On the Rocks,” the b-side to “Devil Inside,” was more of a cocktail instrumental. “Do Wot You Do” is a head-scratcher – a phenomenal track with a great hook. How was this left off the album? Instead, it was included in the Pretty in Pink soundtrack.
Part of Kick’s runaway success was its danceability, and disc three includes a bevy of remixes. Of note is a “soul version” of “Never Tear Us Apart” which is driven by guitar instead of synths. The superior “Nick Mix” of “New Sensation” was the hit single version, and it’s got just a little more punch than the original. The “Need You Tonight” remixes are a little excessive, but that groove was ripe for the picking when it came to DJs. Oddly, it was the Mendelsohn remix that became the hit in the UK (I’m sorry, it’s terrible, and completely guts the sensuality of the original).
There’s also a Blu-Ray with all of Kick’s music videos, which were crucial to the album’s appeal – especially the ground-breaking “Need You Tonight” (consider that this was done in the age before CGI, and you get a new appreciation for it). There’s also a high resolution version of the original album, for the few who actually have a fancy sound system to play it on.
The real treat is an excellent series of essays from Daryl Easlea, who gives us a blow by blow of how the album came about, complete with interviews with all six members of the band, plus producers and managers. The realization that Atlantic Records originally rejected the album and offered to give them “a million dollars to re-record it,” is one of many great stories.
Kick stands as one of the biggest selling albums of the 1980’s (EIGHT million and counting). There was no way INXS could top this dizzying peak, although they continued to release some great albums.
Kick 30 gives us the complete picture of the pinnacle of INXS. —Tony Peters