INXS "Switch"

The much-heralded INXS CD Switch, the first to feature new lead singer J.D. Fortune, was released last Tuesday. I've listened to it a number of times since, and I have to conclude that it's a decent effort with mixed results.

Some of the time, the band seems to be sticking to its '80's dance-rock formula, sometimes too much so. For example, the opening track "Devil's Party" sounds very much like "Original Sin", and Fortune's vocal sounds slavishly like Michael Hutchence, the band's late original frontman. Fortune still sounds Hutchence-like on the single "Pretty Vegas", the song he co-wrote with Andrew Farriss. (Songwriting credit is also given to Marty Casey and Jordis Unga for that song; am I remembering that Rock Star: INXS episode wrong?). But it's a solid song -- after all, it helped J.D. get the job. "Hot Girls" duplicates Hutchence's brand of sexual panting. "Hungry" and "Perfect Strangers" basically have traditional INXS grooves, with a touch of the '00's pop that is derived from '90's alternative rock. "Like It Or Not" has the most primitive groove, and the worst lyrics.

On some tracks, the band seems to try different directions with varying degrees of success. The ballad "Afterglow", co-written by Andrew Farriss and Desmond Child, is passable pop melancholia. On "Remember Who's Your Man", Fortune suddenly sounds like Lenny Kravitz, who he also seemed to be imitating on the premiere episode of Rock Star. "Never Let You Go", co-written by Fortune and drummer Jon Farriss, is an appealingly laid-back pseudo-reggae number that recalls the Swing album from 1984. "Us" is a deeper song than we expect from INXS, convincingly calling for unity and non-complacency in solving the world's problems.

A pleasant surprise for fans of the show Rock Star: INXS is a guest vocal from Suzie MacNeil on the closing ballad "God's Top Ten". She sings the first stanza before J.D. takes over for the second. It's a nice taste of McNeil's voice on record, which we will hopefully hear more of in the future. Also, you can briefly hear Deanna Johnston bellowing in the background during "Hot Girls".

Overall, Switch offers plenty to like, but still comes across as a minor disappointment. It's possible that the next album could be better -- if there is a next one.