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INXS true to its pop from Down Under

 
Published Sept. 5, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

INXS is a constant in a world of shifting musical tastes. They haven't gone alternative, they haven't unplugged. They just keep doing stylish, funky, pop-rock. And their 10th studio album, Elegantly Wasted, is no different.

"We're a strange combination of tenacious and arty," says singer Michael Hutchence. "I think that's partly being from Australia and also playing a sort of hybrid style in the first place."

Hutchence credits the group's Aussie heritage for many things, including why INXS has not jumped on trends.

"Music comes to us across the seas, it doesn't happen underneath us like a rug," he says. "We don't have the kind of demographic attachment or cultural attachment to our music scene. We just kind of look at it all as music. To us, it's sort of whatever's in the fridge, we make dinner with."

Why success is not a big deal:

"Everybody's in a band (in Australia), and it's still pretty much like that," he says. "It's not this big pie in the sky thing."

And why six guys _ Hutchence; brothers Andrew, Jon and Tim Farriss, Garry Beers and Kirk Pengilly can stay together in relative peace for 17 years:

"There's a sense of us-ness and we-ness in Australia," he says. "People there are very spontaneous and egalitarian."

The six Aussies were on a torrid pace in the mid-1980s, releasing albums in 1983 (Shabooh Shoobah), 1984 (The Swing), and 1985 (Listen Like Thieves). Their biggest success came in 1987 with Kick, which sold 9-million copies and featured four hit singles: Never Tear Us Apart, Need You Tonight, New Sensation and Devil Inside.

"We were as most bands. This juggernaut takes off and off you go," he said. "Soon as you finish the last tour, you have a week off, and then you start back into writing and making a new record."

After a welcome three years off, the new record came about quickly. The band recorded it in about eight days, said Hutchence, "And then we messed with it for a while. We wanted to break a lot of chains that were holding us down, or at least clear dead wood."

That came in the form of main songwriters Hutchence and Andrew Farriss following their instincts; much of the record is first-take material written and recorded in hotel rooms. But songwriting is not a breeze for the two; their personalities are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

"Andrew is quite the purist; anything new, he's very suspicious of," Hutchence said. "I'm a "now-right now-this second' person. It's not next week, and yesterday actually doesn't exist.

"So between those two extremes, I guess we get a style we kind of write songs at totally cross purposes."

Hutchence thrives on change. He's now settled down with Paula Yates, ex-wife of Bob Geldof, and her three daughters, and is the father of her fourth daughter. Hard to believe the guy who strutted around shirtless in black leather (with a silver pin spelling out "SEX" on his lapel) in the video for Need You Tonight would be a contented father, but Hutchence says he's ecstatic.

"It's a bit like joining the human race," he said. "I delivered her, and when she came out, I had this strange mixture of emotions. On one side, you feel you're the only person in the world that's ever actually done this, and at the same time, you suddenly feel part of a million years and a billion people. Suddenly, the axis shifts slightly."

AT A GLANCE

INXS performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 and $22.50.