INXS (Deluxe, 1980) / Underneath the Colours (Deluxe (AUS), 1981) - reissued Raven, 2002
The first two INXS records were standard Aussie pub-rock fare, strong in their musicianship thanks to lots of touring the local scene but nothing to write home about from a pop writing perspective - not yet, anyway. These albums were expanded on one great set, Stay Young, released years later on the Raven label in 2002. (More details on that set are below.)
INXSive (Deluxe (AUS), 1982)
After INXS left Deluxe Records for WEA, the label released this compilation of the best of the material from the INXS and Underneath the Colours years, including hits and B-sides in equal measure. Those not curious enough to buy the deluxe set that compiled both albums and their B-sides and outtakes can track this one down, as it did receive a CD release.
Shabooh Shoobah (WEA (AUS)/Atco (U.S.), 1982)
With the release of the oddly-titled Shabooh Shoobah, INXS had a major label deal not only at home (signing with Warner's Australian arm), but abroad. The album came out on Atco in the U.S. and spawned two charting singles which remain among the best of the band's output. "The One Thing" hit No. 30 in the U.S. and sweeping power anthem "Don't Change" reached No. 80; the latter would gain renewed interest as the song played in the finale of the acclaimed film Adventureland in 2009. The LP is one of many in the INXS catalogue that could use a remaster or expansion; four B-sides could be found on various singles (including the aforementioned tunes and Aussie Top 40 hits "To Look at You" and "Black and White," but have yet to hit a widespread release on CD.
Dekadance (WEA (AUS)/Atco (U.S.), 1983)
The intriguing thing about the Dekadance EP is that it's actually two separate titles. In the U.S., it consisted of remixes from Shabooh Shoobah, while the Australian version was dedicated to remixes from the band's next album, The Swing. Rhino would satisfy collectors by combining both programs on one disc.
The Swing (WEA (AUS)/Atco (U.S.), 1984)
The next WEA album was an even bigger hit - the band's first platinum seller in the U.S. - thanks to the Australian chart-topper "Original Sin," slickly produced by Nile Rodgers and featuring guest vocals from Daryl Hall. Further singles "Burn for You" and "I Send a Message" were Top 5 hits in the band's native land, but full-fledged worldwide success was still a few years away. Again, a number of non-LP B-sides exist for the album, including "Mechanical" from the "I Send a Message" single and "The Harbor" from the B-side of "Dancing on the Jetty." (These B-sides from the WEA years could make up their own album.)
Listen Like Thieves (WEA (AUS)/Atlantic (U.S.), 1985)
Here's where INXS started catching the attention of the American music scene. The album hit No. 11 in the States while lead single "What You Need" made it into the Top 5. (The song, like so many INXS tunes, has earned various leases on life by being license into commercials. INXS' songs can sell things like cars rather well, even if that's not the ultimate goal) Several other singles became fan favorites, including "Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain" and the title track. Credit is due to the band's collaboration with legendary producer Chris Thomas (The Beatles, Badfinger, Roxy Music, The Sex Pistols), who helped the band craft a record that rocked while still maintaining a strong pop sheen. Again, a clutch of non-LP tracks would fit an expanded reissue: not only were there a host of B-sides but several soundtrack appearances, including a song in Pretty in Pink ("Do Wot You Do") and two tracks with Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes on the soundtrack to The Lost Boys (1987), released months before the band's next, massive album.
Kick (WEA (AUS)/Atlantic (U.S.), 1987 - reissued Rhino (U.S.), 2002/Mercury (U.K.), 2004)
Anyone who hadn't gotten what a strong band INXS were by 1987 need only have turned on a radio late in the year to hear that opening drum track and a confident whisper of "Come over here" that started "Need You Tonight," the band's signature song and the first of many hits of Kick. Despite initial worries from the label that the album was better suited for R&B airplay instead of straight-ahead rock, everyone could find something to like on the album, from the swinging "Mystify," to the dark groove of "Devil Inside" to the grand ballad "Never Tear Us Apart," the theme to many an '80s slow dance and the song most associate with the dearly departed frontman of the group.
After testing the waters with an assortment of compilations the year before, 2002 marked the first group of reissued LPs for American INXS fans. Rhino's single-disc expansion added four unreleased demos, certainly a boon for fans who didn't need the B-sides or 12" remixes on CD. But it was quickly eclipsed by a European deluxe edition released two years later (by Mercury, controller of the band's catalogue in Europe). It was a standard two-disc Universal Deluxe Edition that had all of those tracks from the Rhino release (including a longer version of one of them, "Move On") and several (but not all) of the remixes heard on various vinyl releases alongside some live cuts.
X (WEA (AUS)/Atlantic (U.S.), 1990 - reissued Rhino (U.S.), 2002)
Why toy with a formula that works? X plays out much like Kick, with big hooks and shiny production from Chris Thomas. There were a few more major Top 10 hits ("Suicide," "Bitter Tears" and the excellent "Disappear"), but this is probably not the go-to album for new fans, as - once again - it's at least a little derivative of its predecessor. Nonetheless, it was given an expanded reissue by Rhino in 2002, adding two outtakes and three demos (including "Salvation Jane," which had been released the year before on The Best of INXS.)
Live Baby Live (WEA (AUS)/Atlantic (U.S.), 1991)
A perfectly standard, stadium-shaking live album, perhaps best heard on the video version that was released on DVD in 2003.
Welcome to Wherever You Are (East West (AUS)/Atlantic (U.S.), 1992 - reissued Rhino (U.S.), 2002)
It was hard for any popular band to get noticed after the explosion of grunge; nobody wanted to hear the same old stuff when there was a new, unexplored sound to be discovered. So INXS put on their best face and attempted an Achtung Baby-style reinvention, adding sitars and orchestras into the mix for what was a much rawer LP than any before it. While critics were very kind, it was not a commercial success, despite the greatness of radio-friendly tunes like "Not Enough Time" and "Beautiful Girl" (still a staple of rock and adult-contemporary stations in the New York metro area). Rhino was at least somewhat cognizant of its reputation among critics and fans, making it the last entry in their only INXS reissue batch. Like Kick and X it was augmented with five unreleased tracks.)
Full Moon, Dirty Hearts (East West (AUS)/Atlantic (U.S.), 1993)
Another stab at the Welcome... sound (again with producer Mark Opitz) but a few intriguing guests as well, including Chrissie Hynde on the title track and Ray Charles singing on fan favorite "Please (You Got That...)." Not a likely contender for immediate reissue, but it could happen.
The Greatest Hits (East West (AUS)/Atlantic (U.S.), 1994)
A standard, single-disc affair covering all of the band's hits in their respective countries (as a result, while the Australian version covered every album to date, the U.S. version started with the mid-'80s, a trend that's been held up on almost every INXS set since). Two new tracks, "The Strangest Party (These Are the Times)" and "Deliver Me," were added for value. (Some versions include All Juiced Up, a bonus EP of contemporary remixes.)
Elegantly Wasted (Mercury, 1997)
The final album recorded with Michael Hutchence was not put out at a great time for the band. They had taken a long break from the public eye, they were stung by Oasis' public damning of them at the BRIT Awards (Noel Gallagher, accepting an award presented by Hutchence, snidely commented, "Has-beens shouldn't be presenting awards to gonna-bes" - which is ironic, since Oasis soon fell apart), and Hutchence was struggling with drugs and a battle with Bob Geldof for a daughter he had with Geldof's then-wife Paula Yates. The music was serviceable enough in the Welcome.../Full Moon vein, but it didn't lead to much commercial success. Then Hutchence was found dead on tour, and the majority of the INXS story was bought to a close. We all remember J.D. Fortune's tenure as lead singer (decided on the reality show Rock Star: INXS) and we've seen the recent release of a new album with rotating guest lead singers (including Rob Thomas of matchbox twenty and Pat Monahan of Train), but for many, Michael Hutchence was and is irreplaceable.
Shine Like It Does: The Anthology 1979-1997 (Atlantic/Rhino (U.S.), 2001) / The Years 1979-1997 (Mercury (AUS), 2002)
The first modern-day catalogue action from INXS came from these two compilations, mostly similar in nature and track listing. Each was two discs' worth of singles, album cuts, B-sides, some remixes and at least one new outtake, "Tight." With notes from the band and a solid sonic presentation, it's not only a classic INXS product but totally indicative of the kind of stuff Rhino was releasing at the time.
The Best of INXS (Atlantic/Rhino (U.S.), 2002) / Definitive INXS (Mercury (AUS), 2002)
The current single-disc distillation of the INXS catalogue in most territories, this set included much of what could be heard on Shine Like It Does or The Years, including the then-unheard "Tight" and "Salvation Jane" along with several single mixes and edits. It's still the best buy for those looking to start their collections on the cheap.
Stay Young: The Deluxe Years 1979-1982 (Raven, 2002)
The Rhino/Mercury compilations often ignore the band's first two albums in Australia on Deluxe Records. This set does exactly the opposite, presenting INXS and Underneath the Colours with a wide offering of single tracks, unheard demos and live cuts. The last word on the band's early catalogue is this set.
INXS²: The Remixes (Mercury (AUS), 2003)
A perfectly avoidable collection of modern-day remixes.
Bang the Drum / Live at Barker Hangar (Island Def Jam, 2004)
Two vintage, download-only bits of INXS goodness: Bang the Drum is an EP consisting of songs found on Elegantly Wasted-era bonus discs (one studio track and two live cuts from an Aspen show in 1997) and the then-unreleased title track; Live at Barker Hangar was a 1993 live show in Santa Monica.
I'm Only Looking: The Best of INXS (Warner, 2004)
A stuffed two-disc DVD set includes all the videos you're looking for, from the hit MTV clips to the increasingly arty video projects the band undertook in the 1990s. A handful of live and unreleased material makes an appearance here, too. Altogether, if you're looking to get into the visual side of INXS, this is your ticket.