X (Music - INXS)

INXS kicks off this album with a song whose title — ”Suicide Blonde” — echoes down dark corridors of American fantasy. Blondes are somehow supposed to be sexier than other women, which in men’s eyes can make them either victims (think of poor Marilyn) or destroyers.

This is a potent myth. Too bad, then, that only the title of the song carries any power. Two years ago INXS exploded into megastardom with songs like ”Devil Inside” that did itch with sleazy desire. This follow-up track has a driving beat, with splashes of peppy harmonica. But it’s far more slick than steamy. Even the blondes in the song’s video can’t muster any menace. Two minutes after the music starts you might find yourself picking up a book.

And so it goes all through the album, X. Everything is glowingly produced, each musical detail nestled precisely in its place. Songs sound fresh when they begin. The relaxed vocal hook at the start of ”Disappear,” the second track, is an engaging contrast to the edgier rhythm of ”Suicide Blonde”; the watchful pulsation that launches ”The Stairs” makes a restful change from ”Disappear.”

But any novelty lasts only for a moment. Every song soon settles into much the same groove. Not even the presence of blues harmonica whiz Charlie Musselwhite — though oddly he doesn’t play on ”Suicide Blonde,” the song where harmonica stands out the most — makes any difference. Nor does it help that glamorous lead singer Michael Hutchence sings all the songs in the same annoying tone, full of fake significance but in the end conveying nothing much more than his own apparent enchantment with himself. This is corporate rock for the ’90s; it pretends to mean something, but in the end gives off only the empty smell of its own success. C+

X (Music - INXS)
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