Music Review: INXS rework songs on ’Original Sin’
INXS, “Original Sin” (Atco Records)
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
In life, we rarely get a do-over. In music, it’s more common, but not always for the better.
INXS’ new album “Original Sin” sees the Australian rockers revisit songs they wrote in their 1980s-’90s heyday and re-record them with a roster of guest vocalists, including Ben Harper, Rob Thomas and Nikka Costa.
The project is billed as a tribute to the band’s core songwriting tandem, keyboardist Andrew Farriss and lead singer Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997.
But the reworked songs mostly fail to wring something new and interesting out of the familiar.
“Original Sin” isn’t the first time INXS has brought in different voices to fill the musical void left by Hutchence’s passing.
In years past, the group turned to Terence Trent D’Arby and Jon Stevens to front the band for live shows. And in 2005, it went on a TV reality program to find a permanent singer, landing one-time Elvis impersonator J.D. Fortune.
INXS recorded the album “Switch” with Fortune and took to the road to promote it, moves that suggested the band was finally at a point where it would be focusing on recording new material again.
Instead, six years later, INXS serves up reworked versions of some of its best-known tracks of yesteryear, including “Don’t Change,” “Never Tear Us Apart” and “New Sensation.”
Some of the changes pleasantly surprise, like the string arrangement and percussion changeup on the excellent “Never Tear Us Apart.” Or on “Kick,” which gets a thorough modern pop ballad makeover with the aid of vocals from Costa. The arrangement blurs nearly all traces of the song’s origins, yet stands on its own.
Still, the musical overhaul doesn’t always work, as in the tropical dance-remix approach to the song “Original Sin,” which includes a Spanish-language rap. Or the retooling of “Mystify” into a spacey ballad with bluesy guitar splashes from John Mayer and vocals by French singer Loane — in French.
With a couple of notable exceptions, the tracks on “Original Sin” mainly foster new appreciation for the original recordings.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: “Never Tear Us Apart“ is by far the best of the bunch. The song brims with a fresh urgency and rhythm, but retains its soulful, pleading quality. Harper delivers a powerful, inspired, dynamic vocal that’s at once familiar and wholly his own.
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