How INXS Extended Their Winning Streak With ‘X’
INXS had quite a bit to celebrate on Sept. 25, 1990, as they unveiled their seventh studio album, X. They chose the roman numeral for 10 as a means of simultaneously commemorating a decade of growing success since their first LP’s release in 1980.
Significantly, X was also the band’s first release in three whole years (a rather long hiatus by ‘80s standards), and the follow-up to their stratospheric breakthrough, Kick – which had catapulted their sales figures from platinum to multi-platinum, and the band members themselves from stars to superstars.
In the interim between both albums, INXS had toured relentlessly for nearly a couple of years in support of Kick and its myriad hit singles. Then they took some much-needed and well-deserved time off during the first half of 1989, before reconvening to begin work on X with longtime producer Chris Thomas.
This familiar working arrangement would, not surprisingly, result in precious few changes to the musical formula that had worked so well on Kick. But no one was complaining when X’s first single “Suicide Blonde” took the global charts by storm, its massive hooks energized by memorable harmonica licks from of blues great Charlie Musselwhite.
Next up came the glossy “Disappear,” then the yearning “By My Side,” followed by the more forceful “Bitter Tears” (a fifth single, “The Stairs,” became a Netherlands-only collectible), which extended X’s promotional shelf life through the end of 1991, and helped disguise the fact that its remaining songs were, by and large, all too safe and forgettable, as well as mired in electronics that have since not dated well.
But INXS, to their credit, took it upon themselves to shake up their sound and work process for 1992’s creatively re-energized Welcome to Wherever You Are. But the advent of grunge convinced their label to invest promotional efforts in fresher blood, and so INXS' gutsy career reboot promptly stalled.
The band would quickly see their global stardom erode over the next few years until the tragic death of singer Michael Hutchence in 1997 made dwindling record sales the least of INXS’ problems, and marked X as the group's final taste of universal acclaim.
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