Editorial comment: INXS officially disbands – long after most had given up on them

After years of struggling to find an identity following the death of frontman Michael Hutchence in 1997, Aussie rockers INXS have finally thrown in the towel.

Perhaps The Sydney Morning Herald best sums up the band’s bowing out, suggesting that “For fans of INXS there will be no overwhelming emotion, no note of tragedy or life passing, for the mourning has already been conducted, the farewells made. INXS effectively ended 15 years ago for most people, ending when Michael Hutchence died in November 1997.”

It’s a sentiment surely shared by many, Real Gone included. Having followed the band’s career eagerly for the ten years, between the release of ‘Kick’ and it’s many hits and Hutchence’s passing, INXS recorded some great music, but Hutch’s death really should have been taken as a cue for the them to bow out gracefully and respectfully.

At their best they were a great, radio-friendly rock band. They recorded a legacy of great music prior to 1997 (from 1986-1992 especially), but following the death of their much-loved lead vocalist, the band’s five surviving members made distasteful choices rivalled only by Brian May and Roger Taylor’s trading off the Queen brand. From whoring themselves on a talent show, playing live with whoever seemed to be around and finally trotting out a largely woeful disc of re-recordings, the attempts at hanging on tested the patience of all but the most loyal. Their one proper studio album (‘Switch’, recorded with JD Fortune) was solid by radio-friendly rock band standards, but a world away from INXS at their best.

This is time which we feel could have been better spent repackaging the back-cat and issuing any rarities they had. ‘Kick’ got a well-deserved anniversary two-disc reissue in 2002 and a shabbily cobbled together four-disc edition in 2012, but what of the rest? Surely 1986’s classic ‘Listen Like Thieves’ is worthy of a decent revisit? Where are the out-of-print VHS titles ‘The Swing & Other Stories’ and ‘In Search of Excellence’ in the DVD market? The latter, in particular, is the definitive word on the band’s career from their formation until the late 80s and would have made an essential addition to the ‘Kick’ box set, and yet, it’s in a record company vault somewhere gathering dust… We can only hope that one day the Hutch-era catalogue will get a worthy re-evaluation. That might compensate for a decade and a half’s half-arsed wandering through the wilderness with no real sense of direction.

With the band having limped slowly to their demise over the past fifteen years, we have to ask why they did it. Fifteen years is far too long to scrape a living from past glories. After all, a decade and a half is far longer than most bands get in the spotlight (or otherwise) in the 21st century – bands who’ve certainly shown far more promise than the post-Hutch INXS could ever deliver.

November 2012