Despite the protestations of rock and roll scientists around the globe, INXS has finally accomplished the impossible: they’ve covered themselves. At least, that’s the impression emanating from Original Sin, their new record. INXS proclaims the album as a serious entry into their studio release catalog, but also as a tribute featuring “several of their signature hits re-imagined by some of the world’s finest musicians.”
Indeed, Original Sin contains 12 new-ish recordings by those loveable Australian new-wavers, but it features significant supplemental work from a bevy of guest stars. The album aims for a strange alchemy that walks the line between “serious new release” and “fun cover record,” and it basically fails at both. Sonically, for instance, Original Sin is a mess. The first three tracks (“Drum Opera,” “Mediate,” and “Original Sin”) slather on heavy bass and synthetic snare in a way that recalls the output of generic ’90s techno bands. It’s significantly disorienting to say the least. After that, the record mercifully switches things up a little with some straight-ahead rock, pop and country balladry. Taken as a whole, though, listeners never really recover from that initial auditory assault.
Another defining aspect of Original Sin: wasted talent. INXS has certainly assembled some major names to pay them obeisance here, but they handle those names in confusing ways. Take, for instance, Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, who brings an incredible impression of original INXS singer Michael Hutchence to a cover of 1984’s “Original Sin.” One might like to hear him strut his stuff a little, but his voice gets obscured by the intrusion of DJ Yaleidys’ synthetic nonsense. Similarly, the notion of John Mayer on “Mystify” excites; one can imagine his breathy vocals adding a unique dimension to that 1987 classic. Sadly, it is not to be; French singer Loane steals all the vocal duties on that track, leaving Mayer to provide only an (admittedly sweet) guitar solo. The album gets points for multiculturalism, but these choices can only confound and frustrate listeners.
Not that Original Sin is completely without its positives. Argentinian artist Deborah de Corral turns in a fantastic country interpretation of “New Sensation” that could’ve provided the blueprint for a much better album. It’s easily the best track on here. Train‘s Pat Monahan injects some real emotion into “Beautiful Girl.” Fellow Australian rocker Kavyen Temperly’s performance of “To Look at You” truly channels the spirit of Hutchence.
Despite these few bright spots, Original Sin proves eminently skippable. It can’t help but disappoint two camps: those who faithfully follow INXS’ recording output and those who want to hear some of their favorite musicians rock out on great songs. One can’t imagine this record being taken as a serious entry into INXS’ catalog in a few years’ time. This is prime footnote material. When CBS aired the reality show Rock Star: INXS in the summer of 2005, many of the band’s critics felt they should just let Michael Hutchene’s impressive legacy rest. Five years later, the group has done nothing to prove them wrong.
Original Sin Tracklist:
01. Drum Opera (Jon Farriss)
02. Mediate (Tricky)
03. Original Sin (Rob Thomas & DJ Yaleidys)
04. Never Tear Us Apart (Ben Harper & Mylene Farmer)
05. Beautiful Girl (Pat Monahan)
06. New Sensation (Deborah de Corral)
07. Just Keep Walking (Dan Sultan)
08. Mystify (Loane & John Mayer)
09. To Look at You (Kavyen Temperley)
10. Kick (Nikka Costa)
11. Don’t Change (Andrew Farriss & Kirk Pengilly)
12. Stairs (JD Fortune)
Check out more INXS at their website.