Record Review: INXS – To Look At You

WEA | OZ | 2x7" | 1983 | XS2

WEA | OZ | 2×7″ | 1983 | XS2

INXS: To Look At You OZ 2×7″ [1983]

  1. To Look At You
  2. The Sax Thing
  3. You Never Used To Cry
  4. Here Comes II

INXS were first encountered when their video for the single “The One Thing” started to get airplay on MTV. I wasn’t convinced. They seemed to be kind of mainstream. The cheap sexual metaphors of the video were gauche, and they just rubbed me a little bit the wrong way. I decided at that point to ignore the group. I liked the followup single, “Don’t Change” a lot, but I needed more convincing. It wasn’t until I saw their third US video for the single “Original Sin” that I twigged that something was happening with this band, and I developed an interest.

As it turned out, the band were mainstream; in the best sense of the word. They managed to hit the sweet spot between mid-late Roxy Music and the Rolling Stones and make music which filled the airwaves without causing nausea. In fact, much of their catalog was pretty good! The band’s earlier two albums seemed to be aiming for a Joe Jackson vibe before they moved onward to new territories with “Shabooh Shoobah.” Once I heard a tape of B-sides a friend with Oz connections gave me of their rarities from ’80-’84 I crossed the line from casual to committed fandom. Here was a band with the talent to do almost anything.

The Australian 2×7″ of “To Look At You” is pretty much the sort of record that if it alone didn’t make one a fan of INXS, it was never going to happen. The A-side is the finest track off of their US breakthrough “Shabooh Shoobah” album. While the US got singles of “The One Thing” and the much superior “Don’t Change,” their home turf got this subtle, elegant number  that sounded like it would be a good fit with the likes of Roxy Music’s “Flesh + Blood” album. The moody, synth-laden track was a gift from the pen of keyboardist Andrew Farris, who has an able facility for melody and shows that he doesn’t need Michael Hutchence to rely on for lyrics, either.

The bulk of the B-sides, however, gleefully take the INXS limo off road for some deep country exploration! Kirk Pengilly provided the incredible instro “The Sax Thing,” and it is hands, down my favorite INXS B-side to this day. There has never been a time when I have ever played this song without lifting my spirits, even if I was already happy! It sounds like something Boots Randolph may have cut on a frisky day. The jazzy, skittering drums of Jon Farriss only add to the pleasure of this track. It all hangs together like a rip on the Kay Kyser big band tune “Three Little Fishes,” which it strongly resembles.

One of the glories of INXS is that B-sides were usually given to individual band members’ compositions. Give the lads a little publishing royalties. Disc two starts out with a Jon Farris solo cut “You Never Used To Cry.” The resulting track sounds like a mutant, drum-heavy doo-wop/R+B number from the late 50s somehow crossed with glam rock. Presumably Farris is singing here and it’s pretty weird and wonderful! It’s just a 2:11 cocktail of fizzy pleasure. It’s redolent of early Roxy Music without sounding a bit like them.

Finally, the last track is an alternate take of “Here Comes” cleverly called “Here Comes II.” This is a different recording of the track from “Shabooh Shoobah,” but it circles back to the stylish kicks offered by “To Look At You.” This great single package gives INXS a chance to show not only their elegant rock face, but the more idiosyncratic sides that their sax player and drummer had to offer to the world.

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4 Responses to Record Review: INXS – To Look At You

  1. Echorich says:

    Great song! Great period in their career! Ok so I have a story about Michael Hutchence licking my face…yes, really. But I am NOT going to get into it…

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  2. Brian Ware says:

    I wish the band would get serious about a proper re-issue program. The great Raven Records took the first two LPs and issued an astounding two disc collection called “Stay Young 1979 – 1982” back in 2002. It took their first two LPs and added every possible stray track from that era – b-sides, demos, and amazing live material. They were a very different band before their U.S. breakthrough! Since then they’ve fiddled around with remastered 2-fers and some later period re-issues with a few b-sides and/or demos, but all their pre-“Kick” LPs need the double CD deluxe treatment!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Brian Ware – Yes, I am remiss in not having that Raven Comp. It’s spectacular. But I am remiss in not having a lot of things. DLX 2xCD RMS of the INXS canon would be loads of fun… except for that album. You know the one. I still haven’t heard it, though I saw the tour for it! Now that INXS have finally let the headless body die, Andrew Farriss will undoubtedly turn his attention to burnishing the legacy. Mark my words. Give him no more than 4 years, tops.

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