Perhaps the most underrated album of INXS's long career, 1981's UNDERNEATH THE COLOURS is an intriguing sidestep. The Sydney band's self-titled 1980 debut had been a mildly schizophrenic melange of straight-ahead rock & roll and new wave experiments. 1982's SHABOOH SHOOBAH would meld the two into a seamless, commercially viable whole, but this intervening album sounds in retrospect like INXS's attempt to get all its arty affectations out of the way once and for all.
Although the songs are melodic and basically commercial, the arrangements and production are quirky and dissonant. Kirk Pengilly's sax and Andrew Farriss's keyboards dominate the mix, with Michael Hutchence's vocals and Jon Farriss's increasingly dance-oriented drums lost in the background. The effect is very much of its time, but new wave fans and those who only caught up with INXS through its more successful later records will find UNDERNEATH THE COLOURS surprising and illuminating.
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