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The Faith Project: INXS – Kick

July 20, 2010 By: and Category: Greatest Hits, The Faith Project

Inspired by their mutual love of the INXS record Kick, Matt and Jeff have decided to take another listen to their favorite classic and forgotten records from the 80s. This is the Faith Project, and it is 100% guaranteed to contain absolutely no analysis of George Michael’s Faith.


About a month ago, I learned that Beck’s record club was doing a song-by-song cover album of INXS’s nearly forgotten classic Kick. I immediately sent the link to Matt, knowing him to be a Kick fan from way back. The covers got us motivated to dust off the original, and we spent the next 2 weeks on a serious Kick bender. When talk came around about the next old favorite we should put into rotation, I brought up George Michael’s Faith. Matt came up with the idea of calling our newly-formed record club The Faith Project. Then he suggested that it would be better if we called it the Faith Project and never actually listened to Faith. Thus, the Faith Project was born. This week, we take a listen to the record that got the whole thing started, Kick.

I don’t have memories of listening to Kick the way I do some of my other early favorites, like R.E.M.’s Document or U2′s The Joshua Tree. The main thing I remember about INXS is that my friend Jon Harmon’s sister Libby was super into them, and I thought she was cool because she was older than us and dressed like Molly Ringwald’s wacky friend in Pretty in Pink and knew what KROQ was even though we lived in Michigan. I know I listened to this record over and over again, I just can’t recall how old I was, or where, or with who. I have repressed all memories of listening to this record. I have also repressed all pictures of me trying to grow my hair out to look more like Michael Hutchence, because yowch.

Any discussion of INXS has to begin by acknowledging that Michael Hutchence died by choking while wanking himself off. In my opinion, the less said about that, the better. Autoerotic asphyxiation is one of those things that should theoretically be funny, but really is just a reminder that even the coolest guys in the world are nothing more than dick-spanking apes desperately groping for a few seconds of happiness in an otherwise miserable existence. I’m sure there isn’t a man among us who doesn’t have at least one adventure in his long history of self-cultivation that maybe wasn’t such a great idea in retrospect. Michael Hutchence didn’t just look like a rock n’ roll Jesus: he died for our sins.

Just a bunch of pallies.

But putting Michael Hutchence’s unseemly death aside, how does the music hold up? Answer: incredibly well. INXS’s Kick is the kind of record that rarely comes around nowadays … the mass-audience smash that is also a great album. There is no chaff on Kick … even the least essential song, “Mediate,” feels like a necessary transition between the stellar pop brilliance of “Need You Tonight” and the slow boogie of “The Loved One.” It’s not often that I recognize the sequencing on a pop record, but the sequencing on Kick gives you just the right amount of each flavor of INXS at just the right time.

And oh! What flavors there are! (The award for the single gayest thing I’ve ever written goes to … that sentence!) The songs on Kick showcase a remarkable range of sounds and styles, while remaining firmly rooted in an essential groove that is unmistakably INXS. (First runner-up!) The beats laid down by young Jon Farriss are some kind of funky … the record is teeming with beats and rhythms that are just begging to be sampled by some enterprising young Marley Marl. The record produced 4 top 10 hits: “Need You Tonight” (#1), “Devil Inside” (#2), “New Sensation” (#3), and “Never Tear Us Apart” (#7), but nearly every song on the record could have easily been a single. Almost nothing on the record sounds dated, even though it’s very much of a time and place. It’s a perfect hybrid of new wave and classic rock that has weathered the test of time better than many of the other major records from the ’80s. (In contrast to the videos, which really should have studied harder for the test of time.)

As far as individual tracks go, I’ve always been a sucker for “Need You Tonight,” which is pure sex in song form. It’s only in my recent bout of listening that I’ve finally realized what this song is … it’s a Prince song. I mean, it’s not literally a song by Prince, but it is INXS’s attempt to write a Prince song. The combination of the Prince funk with Hutchence’s Aussie white-boy soul vocals is irresistible; again, why haven’t a thousand hip-hop songs sampled this beat?

Of all the amazing songs on the album, though, it is the opening track, “Guns in the Sky,” that’s been fascinating me the most lately. “Guns in the Sky” starts the record off right with a massive hit on the kick drum. Hutchence comes in a second later, spitting out some weird sexual grunt riff that would’ve been followed by a “woooo!” in the throat of a lesser vocalist. Not Hutchence, he plays it cool. He knows the band is just getting started. Guitarist Tim Farriss (brother of Jon and keyboardist Andrew) lays down a tense rhythm line over the beat that explodes into an anarchic solo, then pulls it back just as quickly for the chant-along final chorus.

But the best part about “Guns in the Sky” is the batshit crazy lyrics penned by Hutchence.

Guns in the sky
Child grows up to see
Guns in the sky
Used to be on TV
Wanna change! Forgot the joke! Well, it’s great to see you, but I’m running late!
Da da da! Love your hair! Da da da! Lend me a ten!
Da da da! I love your big house! Da da da! Won’t you spare a dime?
Well I’m sick of it! It’s a load of shit! We can stop the world and let off all the fools and let them go live with their guns in the sky!

I mean, what? What’s happening in this verse? From what I gather, Hutchence is bitching about how some friend of his complimented him on his hair and then asked to borrow some money. And then Hutchence was all, “I’m so sick of this shit! I wish I could throw this dude off the earth so he can go into outer space and live with a space laser! The kind I used to see on TV when I was a kid!”

And yet, somehow he still manages to make it sound cool, in the same way that Lou Reed can make the words “she’s sucking on my ding-dong” sound badass. The venom in Hutchence’s voice when he says “It’s a load of shit!” Whatever is happening in this verse has clearly happened to him more than once, and he’s fucking tired of it. The obvious interpretation, of course, is that this is an anti-Strategic Defense Initiative song … which is seconded by the video … but nothing else in the verses really has anything to do with politics. The only thing I can figure is that Hutchence had the aforementioned weird interaction with his buddy, then came home pissed off and opened up the paper to an article about SDI and was like, “oh, bloody fucking Hell. First this arsehole’s blowing smoke up my ass to get a loan, and now some buggers’ going to put a bunch of lasers up in space? What is this world coming to? Might as well go have a choke wank.”

All strokes aside, the thing I respect the most about Kick is that there is not a single lazy moment on this record. Kick is INXS’s sixth studio record, and they’re working harder to entertain than they ever had before. Who even sticks around long enough to make six records nowadays? Truly, an impressive achievement all around. I highly recommend giving it another spin if you’re a fan. And if you’ve never heard it, pick it up: you’re in for a treat.

Next page: Matt weighs in with his impressions on the record that made Kylie smiley!

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6 Comments to “The Faith Project: INXS – Kick”

  1. Kick! Why did I ever let that album go?

    I have to say, though, I am so disappointed that you won’t be doing Faith. That was the record that caused my eight-year-old self to discover sexy feelings.

    • Yeah, Faith is awesome. Among many strengths, it features another one of the best Prince songs that Prince never wrote, “I Want Your Sex (Part 1)”.

  2. I still adore “Never Tear Us Apart,” I don’t care how cheesy it might be. But you guys are right, that whole album is amazing.

  3. I’ve long held that Kick is one of those perfect albums.

    Also: I Need You Tonight is about vampires.

  4. Never had heard of the Record Club. Goddamn. Beck is one cool dude.

  5. Excellent article/essay, it’s a truly brilliant album.