Sound & Vision - - ENTERTAINMENT - Mike Met­tler

INXS were rid­ing high as the cal­en­dar got deeper and deeper into

1987. The alt-rock­ing Aus­tralian sex­tet had truly come into their own fol­low­ing the wider in­ter­na­tional pen­e­tra­tion of 1985’s Lis­ten Like Thieves. They were also bur­geon­ing MTV dar­lings, mainly thanks to the mag­netic pres­ence of poster-boy front­man Michael Hutchence.

That said, the band had enough mu­si­cal acu­men to over­ride their video-cen­tric im­age, best ex­em­pli­fied by the churn­ing, lay­ered groove of Thieves’ big hit, “What You Need,” it­self born of the in­ter­locked song­writ­ing axis of lyri­cist/vo­cal­ist Hutchence and key­boardist/gui­tarist An­drew Far­riss.

The band’s Oc­to­ber 1987 ef­fort, Kick, sealed the au­ral deal, ul­ti­mately go­ing six-times plat­inum and serv­ing up four Top 10 hits on the U.S. charts. And now, Kick is be­ing prop­erly feted in a four-disc 30th an­niver­sary box set. In ad­di­tion to the remastered main al­bum on

Disc 1, Discs 2 and 3 of­fer 27 fas­ci­nat­ing demos, al­ter­nate mixes, and B-sides. But the true kicker of Kick is clearly Disc 4, a Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos mix of the al­bum (and eight iconic promo videos) as shep­herded by Giles Martin and Sam Okell. You can also ex­pe­ri­ence it via Dolby Truehd 7.1, which I did at home (though I did get the full Atmos treat­ment at a sep­a­rate lo­cale’s lis­ten­ing ses­sion).

We’ll ex­plore Kick’s im­pact in the Atmos strato­sphere in a mo­ment. But first, it should be noted the linch­pin for Kick’s su­per sonic re­sults was pro­ducer Chris Thomas, who cut his teeth helm­ing a num­ber of key tracks on The Bea­tles’ 1968 mag­num one-for-all opus, The White Al­bum— al­beit with­out a listed credit at the time, but none­the­less un­der­taken with pro­ducer Ge­orge Martin’s full bless­ing. Thomas fur­ther honed his craft be­hind the board for the likes of Badfin­ger, Sex Pis­tols, and Hu­man League, a pro­duc­tion pot­pourri that ac­tu­ally best read­ied him to be the prime choice to har­ness the late-’80s in­ter­sec­tion be­tween INXS’S pop chops and their un­der­ly­ing punk spunk.

With Thomas’ lev­el­headed pro­duc­tion as their sten­cil, Martin and Okell opened up Kick in ways I’ve never heard be­fore—and, frankly, did not ex­pect. Per­haps due to his over­all glam­orous im­age and tragic pass­ing in 1997, Hutchence gets over­looked as a singer, but his in­trigu­ing vo­cal choices are of­ten front and cen­ter here, and/or rightly spread all around you as nec­es­sary. With Atmos’ in­her­ent clar­ity, you can bet­ter hear how Hutchence se­lec­tively tem­pers his de­lib­er­ate beat-for-beat three-syl­la­ble enun­ci­a­tion of the key ti­tle word of the re­frain of “New Sen­sa­tion”— “sen-say-shun”—ever-so-slightly dif­fer­ently with each pass, while his best work is found in the plead­ing in­flec­tional shifts from verse to verse in “Never Tear Us Apart” (as well as his lay­ered cho­rus re­sponse lines in the rear chan­nels) and the warped, war­bling free-flow rhymes of “Me­di­ate.”

The band’s in­tu­itive in­stru­men­tal prow­ess is also well high­lighted. Tim Far­riss’ sharp lead gui­tar riffs on “Need You Tonight” come at you in di­ag­o­nal call-and-re­sponse stabs, ini­ti­at­ing their par­ry­ing in the front right and fol­low­ing with as­sertive re­turn thrust­ing in the rear left. Kirk Pengilly’s clos­ing sax solo on “Me­di­ate” is deftly cen­tered but not mix-dom­i­nant. Garry Gary Beers’ sub-chan­nel-lov­ing lowend bass com­ple­ments the vo­cal plunges of “Devil In­side” and sup­ple­ments Jon Far­riss’ sharp, ping-ponged front-to-back per­cus­sion, while brother Tim’s chim­ing gui­tar leads en­velop the pro­ceed­ings just right. Even the open­ing rear-chan­nel shak­ers on “Guns in the Sky” are the very def­i­ni­tion of the word crisp— and that’s the crux of the sound of Kick right there. Martin and Okell’s Atmos mix is akin to pump­ing fresh air into a room, clear­ing away any resid­ual mud­dle to re­veal just how clear and vi­brant ev­ery­thing has al­ways been at the al­bum’s core.

Given how wholly crys­tal-clear and im­mer­sive this new Kick mix is, I would ab­so­lutely love to hear Martin and Okell tackle other key INXS tracks in this fash­ion, such as the riff-driven se­duc­tive chugfest “The One Thing” from 1982’s Sha­booh Shoobah, the some­what funki­fied “Orig­i­nal Sin” and “I Send a Mes­sage” tan­dem from 1984’s Nick Lau­nay/nile Rodgers–pro­duced The Swing, the afore­men­tioned “What You Need” and ti­tle track from 1985’s Kick tem­plate pre­cur­sor, Lis­ten Like Thieves, the ever-skit­tery “Sui­cide Blonde” from 1990’s X, and the touch­ing bal­lad “Not Enough Time” from 1992’s Wel­come to Wher­ever You Are. Come to think of it, M&O could do a full-on sur­round up­date of 2002’s The Best of INXS to cover all the bases.

In­ci­den­tally, I asked Martin about the pos­si­bil­ity when I saw him in the Hi Res Au­dio Pav­il­ion at CES 2018, and af­ter his ini­tial, silent Cheshire grin, he said, “Wouldn’t that be great fun?” ( Per­fect mo­ments, im­pos­si­ble to refuse. . .)

Some­times you kick, some­times you get kicked. But when it comes to the Dolby Atmos mix of Kick, your ears are the ul­ti­mate win­ners of re­ceiv­ing the brunt of the al­bum’s ele­giac full-chan­nel boot— ev­ery sin­gle one of us, the au­dio­phile in­side.

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