The Dec. 7 Style review of the INXS album "Switch" incorrectly said that the death of lead singer Michael Hutchence in 1997 left the band with three members. The group had five other members at the time. (Published 12/10/2005)
A LITTLE MORE PERSONAL
Now that Lindsay Lohan has joined Paris Hilton on the roster of famous Hollywood party girls, tales of her wild lifestyle and family drama have seemed to overshadow the news about her actual singing and acting careers. Releasing an album titled "A Little More Personal (Raw)," then, perhaps suggests her desire to provide a view of her life that goes beyond the tabloids. And while Lohan still sounds like a teenager, "Personal" sounds surprisingly honest for someone so often portrayed as shallow.
Lohan kicks off the album with "Confessions of a Broken Heart," a mournful plea to her absent father. Even with lyrics that are a bit heavy on the teen melodrama ("I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders"), Lohan's choice to convey disappointment in the first man in her life (rather than a boyfriend) is refreshing. Her paternal frustrations continue on the raging "My Innocence" before she moves on to bemoan her inadequate relationships with the younger set as well. "If You Were Me" laments a failed love, but her glossy voice never truly captures the anger and intensity in the lyrics.
Where Lohan fails worst, though, is in her choice of covers. Her version of "Edge of Seventeen" sounds thin without the maturity of Stevie Nicks's voice, while Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" isn't a terribly textured song no matter who sings it.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
Let's take the least cynical interpretation of recent developments in the 28-year-old Australian rock band INXS: After singer Michael Hutchence died of an apparent suicide in 1997, the three remaining members mourned, and then felt the urge to go back to work. They tried a few different singers, none of whom clicked, and finally held an audition this year -- so much the better that CBS built a popular reality show around it.
Which brings us to "Switch," the first album with J.D. Fortune, the winning singer. Fortune isn't terrible. He has a glimpse of Hutchence's sex appeal, and his voice wraps comfortably around the band's familiar bass lines and staccato guitars. In fact, "Switch" actually resembles '80s-vintage INXS, especially rockers "Like It or Not" and the opening "Devil's Party."
But the album has a rushed-for-maximum-commercial-impact feel, especially given the bland presence of studio pros Desmond Child and the Matrix on the group's songwriting team. Deeper listening reveals ponderous ballads ("Afterglow," which includes the treacly line "the walls of my memory divides the thorns from the roses") and embarrassingly shallow rockers ("Hot Girls," which is, sadly, self-explanatory).
INXS has never been the most profound band in the world -- even peak hits such as 1985's "What You Need" erred on the side of simplicity and romance rather than poetry and wisdom. But the band's best stuff has a hunger, an urgency, that still sounds snappy and big on the radio. Without Hutchence to ignite with his Aussie mates in the studio, those qualities are missing -- because of a hastily recorded session, maybe, but mostly because of a lack of chemistry between grizzled rock veterans and an unproven reality-show pinup.
-- Steve Knopper