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CD Reviews: Review of Switch by INXS
Medsker Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com INXS: Switch (Epic 2005)

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When word first surfaced that INXS would have an open audition to find a replacement for the late Michael Hutchence, and that it would be produced by Mark “Survivor” Burnett for broadcast on CBS, the music community, by and large, was aghast. “What would Michael think?” was the first thought on most people’s minds. But in fairness to the band, Michael didn’t exactly ask the band what they thought about him hanging himself in his hotel room. (Yes, I know about the auto-erotic asphyxiation theories, but this is neither the time nor the place.) Was “Rock Star: INXS” merely a crass, calculated attempt to put the band’s name back into mainstream pop culture? Yes, and it worked like a charm: the album debuted at #17 on the Billboard charts, easily the band’s best entry in over a decade.

Anyone who watched the show knew that the only way that J.D. Fortune was going to lose the contest was if he died before the finale. The guy may be a tool – the shots of him in the booklet are a hilarious exercise in forced toughness – but he does an uncanny impression of Hutchence, and that clearly makes INXS comfortable. Marty was good and all, but he wanted to turn INXS into the Killers, and that was never going to happen. J.D. had the voice, the look (tell me the dark hair didn’t also have something to do with the band’s decision), and the willingness to join their band, as opposed to making the band his own. Case closed.

And just like that, the band’s new album, Switch, is out. Didn’t the show just end? How on earth did they finish an album this quickly? Were the basic tracks already finished? What if Sweet Suzie McNeil (whose performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the show’s finest moment) had won, and the songs needed to be moved into different keys? Kinda nails the point home even more that the band knew who their singer was a long time before they had to make the official announcement, but no matter. The most important question is: is it any good? Shockingly, yeah, it’s not bad.

Okay, so Switch isn’t going to make anyone throw out their copies of Kick or Listen Like Thieves, but given the circumstances, this is pretty good for the manner in which it was assembled. “Perfect Strangers,” in fact, smokes every track on X but “Disappear,” and “God’s Top Ten” (which features Sweet Suzie McNeil on vocals) is a welcome return to the moodier, atmospheric side of the band, in the same vein as “To Look at You” or “Johnson’s Aeroplane.” “Hungry” takes a little time to reveal itself, but when the chorus hits, it hits big.

It isn’t all cake and ice cream, though. “Hot Girls” is as dumb as the title suggests (at least Hutchence would come up with some creative wordplay, like “Suicide Blonde”), and the “Devil Inside” knockoff “Pretty Vegas” doesn’t sound quite so hot here. Guy Chambers was a shrewd choice as producer, since the guy knows his way around a good song (he wrote all of Robbie Williams’ best stuff), and the album sounds like vintage INXS but has a very modern spin to it as well. Perhaps a bit too big, but hey, all records not made by the White Stripes sound too big these days.

Switch isn’t great, but it’s everything that INXS could have possibly hoped for, given the circumstances. They found a guy that can emulate their famous dead singer, and the ringers they brought in to co-write some tunes (the Matrix, yikes) did just well enough to create something a cut above Full Moon, Dirty Hearts and Elegantly Wasted. The interesting part will be when they put the next album together, and Fortune is writing songs with the band from scratch. Anyone can lay down a vocal on demand; how Fortune reacts to the group dynamic, when no one is looking, will determine whether another INXS singer dies under mysterious circumstances.

~David Medsker




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