Shabooh Shoobah

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INXS wasn't quite there yet with Shabooh Shoobah -- which, by the way, has to rank as one of the most annoying titles ever conceived -- but at more than one point, they reached some total heights. For the most part, however, Shabooh Shoobah is an example of a talented bunch of performers still finding their own identity. There's a smart, slick punch to the album that suggests late-period Roxy Music crossed with a younger, brasher energy, which perfectly explains the sly grooves of songs like "To Look at You" and "Here Comes." It's all very pleasant and a good listen, with all six performers showing the skill and energy that made their live reputation so strong at the time, but mostly the songs aren't really anything deathless. The truest highlights were at the start and end, with the group creating not one but two hands-down early-'80s rock classics that stand the test of time. "The One Thing" is a great way to start, a strutting number that gives Hutchence a real chance to shine as a singer, strong and commanding, while the combined synth/guitar/sax hook that drives the song is instantly memorable. But if "The One Thing" is grand, "Don't Change" is just flat out fantastic, one of the best album closers ever dreamed up. Soaring in on a just dreamy enough synth line from Andrew Farriss and then a quick guitar burst, the rest of the band then explodes into action -- it's some of the best rock-without-apology-or-quotes sound anyone could ever hear, crisp, fierce, and clean. Hutchence takes charge of that action like the vaunted frontman he was, delivering one of the more cryptic but still just right romance lyrics from that time with aplomb and fire. The chorus is simply killer, while the concluding, extended calls of the title phrase over the song's last notes make up the icing on the cake.

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