Everyone should know how the band got to this place. It was certainly one of the more publicized selections of a new frontman in memory.|
The 5 original members of Inxs chose new frontman – Canadian singer JD Fortune – on their reality TV series RockStar: Inxs.
As someone who watched the show from the outset, JD stood out as the candidate who wanted it most of all. He was the most driven of all the singers gathered and despite a rocky and 'unstable' beginning; he grew in promise and emerged as the person that would be a bold choice for the band.
I was always worried Inxs would choose a safer route, but the band clearly recognized that the rock edge and clear vulnerability of JD was the more interesting option.
After a failed start with Noiseworks vocalist Jon Stevens provided only one very average single, I was worried the songwriting prowess of the band might have seen better days.
Even the last couple of Michael Hutchence fronted albums were patchy. Could the guys come together and find new life?
It seems as if they have, with this album carrying certain energy and some solid songs.
Inxs are responsible for some very fine pop rock (or dance rock) tunes, but their early career was firmly planted in pub rock. With JD in the fold, I had high hopes that the band would return with more of a rock edge.
This is partially true – I would have liked to have heard more of a harder edge, but as many bands with long and varied careers do, the guys hedge their bets somewhat with an album of tracks that draw influences from across their career.
What is surprising though is how much the band has evolved into something new and how modern this album sounds in places.
Switch is an apt title, as the band switches vocalists and approach, moving more into a U2 inspired modern rock style, while still drawing influences from their classic rock style and the more high-tech pop style that brought them their biggest international success.
This album mixes early influences from the likes of The Swing, through their breakthrough US hit album Kick and then on again in a more modern direction.
At times one can hear Hutchence channeling his distinctive vocal style through JD, but he is no clone. What elevates him beyond a mere copycat singer is his unquestionable passion and rock n roll attitude.
On a critical note, I would have liked the album to rock just a little harder and I would also have liked to seen more writing input from JD, as it's clear he has a lot to offer.
I hope the band don't see this as a one album/one tour deal as the next Inxs album should be even better with JD firmly entrenched as frontman.
Track By Track:
Devil's Party is typical Inxs. A little brass, a big groove and a smoldering moody vocal. JD proves to be the perfect fit within 30 seconds of the album opening. I like what he brings to this party and I'm even more pleased to see his name in the writing credits.
The chorus is subtle, as is most of the song, but it has a certain intensity, which is JD's trademark. At times he sounds uncannily like the late, great Michael Hutchence.
Everyone should know the lead single Pretty Vegas. I love this rocking tune. The lyrics were written by JD with two of the other contestants from RockStar, but the song is JD's. He owns this track and its story. Incredibly catchy, the song is one of my favourite tunes of 2005.
Afterglow is the first hint of something new for Inxs. This soft, modern rock ballad sounds like something from U2's The Joshua Tree, updated for 2005. JD proves to be a vocalist with versatility as he explores an intense, moody musical landscape which builds into an emotional climax. The track has every chance at being a hit should radio programmers (and fans) want to accept Inxs sounding this way. It's a gamble by the band and the similarities to U2 are plain to see, yet it is still a winner. Interestingly, the track is co-written by Andrew Farriss and Desmond Child.
The moody, modern and sometimes uptempo pop/rocker Hot Girls is co-written by Andrew Farriss, producer Guy Chambers (Robie Williams) and The Matrix (Avril Lavigne). Once again there is a definite intensity here and I was surprised to learn that JD had no hand in writing it, as it just seemed to be a song perfectly suited to his personality.
The song features some funny lyrics and is somewhat suggestive without being direct, which was a Hutchence/Inxs trademark.
Perfect Stranger is another strong Inxs classic, turning back to their 80s vibe, with the modern production of the new album. Hutchence again comes to mind with the vocals of JD and the uptempo chorus is another highlight of the album.
The album takes a left turn for Remember Who's Your Man. This is a different side of the band and of JD as a vocalist. Can't say I'm into this track – which is an example of the band hedging their bets stylistically speaking. Suddenly I feel that I'm listing to a Richie Kotzen album! Mix in a little Lenny Kravitz and you get an interesting soul/pop song, but it is a little out of place with the rest of the material.
Next up is Hungry – possibly my favourite track of the album. This is a super intense brooding modern rocker that builds to an explosive chorus. The song is drenched in keyboards and is another song that defines the new Inxs and given a chance, could be a radio hit.
Never Let You Go is another track that steps away from the general sound of the album, but fits for some reason. I don't love it, but I won't skip it either, just because the funky pop groove is interesting and JD gets another chance to do something different.
Like It or Not is a layered, effects filled uptempo pop rocker with a strong chorus and a good beat. A mix of the old and the new, there is something very familiar about the drum sound for old fans of the band.
Us is another slightly funky number with that Richie Kotzen comparisons again in place. A very pop verse leads to a strong uptempo chorus.
The album closes with the very interesting mellow modern rock track God's Top Ten. Alongside JD, the song features a female lead vocal from fellow RockStar contestant Suzie McNeil. She suits the song, which is a tribute to Michael Hutchence.
Thickly layered instrumentation and some authorative lead vocals support strong (if not varied) material, which together forms a very good album. This isn't going to appeal to everyone, as it is a little diverse and not entirely aimed at the band's original core audience.
It really could and should have rocked even more, but there is a lot to like about the album. A dozen listens in, I am convinced it is as good an album as we could expect and probably the best album since Kick.
They got the vocalist spot on and the material just about right.
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