The Lowlist: INXS's Kick was the sound of a rock band taking on modern technology

INXS's Kick album
(Image credit: INXS)

Kick was Australian pop-rock band INXS’s sixth album, released in late 1987. The INXS snowball had been gathering momentum through the 80s, but 1988 was when they hit the bullseye. Michael Hutchence’s smouldering sexuality, combined with the band’s musicianship and some classic songs caught the ear of the casual music listener. 

Kick didn’t take off until the band executed a 16-month world tour and released the single Need You Tonight, which reached number one in the US: suddenly, the rest of the world took notice. 

Between 1988 and 1989, Kick went on to sell nearly 20 million copies. Bassist Garry Gary Beers, so good they named him twice, was and remains a highly capable groove merchant. Fusing rock, pop, funk and dance rhythms, his work with drummer Jon Farriss is exemplary. Although occasionally seen with G&L basses, for the recording of Kick and most of his career with INXS, Beers was a walking advert for Fender Precision basses, strung with Rotosound Swing Bass roundwounds and hooked up to Ampeg rigs.

Electronic drums and power chords signal the album-opener Guns In The Sky, Hutchence’s vocal spitting across the track, before we get to the jangly-guitared New Sensation, where Beers’ pedalled bassline provides the drive and foundation for the rest of the band’s groove-laden rock/pop hybrid. 

Devil Inside was the album’s second single and is the perfect foil for Hutchence’s sensual vocal delivery. Throughout the album, you can hear that the band are upping their game and taking on modern technology – especially when it came to rhythms – to reinforce their guitar-heavy sound.

Need You Tonight was a classic single and remains the band’s signature tune. Sparse yet busy, electronic but organic, it reached the top of the charts in the US and around the world – and suddenly, INXS were cool. Never Tear Us Apart also became a classic in its own right. Beers’ picked Precision tone stands out in all its glory, as it does on the final single Mystify, rounded and punchy with some split-coil grit.

Kick, with its horn-laden entry, is swept along by Beers’ constantly moving bassline in the verses, which reverts to a pedalling line in the chorus to make way for Kirk Pengilly’s colourful sax playing. Calling All Nations and Tiny Daggers are excellent illustrations of the band’s ability to mix clean and distorted guitar parts with great effectiveness – this was a strong element in the band’s signature sound.

INXS rode the crest of a popular wave from 1988 to 1991, climaxing with a triumphant show at Wembley Stadium. Like many bands, they suffered at the hands of grunge in the 90s and following the death of Michael Hutchence in 1997, the band were never able to repeat their earlier success. 

Let Kick serve as a record of how great they were...

Kick by INXS is available to buy or stream

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