Listen Like Thieves was the band’s fourth studio album in six years, two other albums,1982’s INXSive, a greatest hits collection, and 1983’s Dekadance, an album of extended remixes and dance versions of existing songs, had also been issued.
But Listen Like Thieves marked a return to anthemic rock that would completely capture the US market. It also flagged the international emergence of the odd couple songwriting partnership of Farriss and Hutchence, the bookish, introspective, analytical, somewhat shy, multi-instrumentalist Andrew, and the mercurial, unpredictable, lyrical, social butterfly Michael, who would collectively write the hit songs for the band. the album cover’s montage featured a flaming sunset, a sultry heat haze, and Michael’s silhouette within the band’s logo.Producer Chris Thomas (above) had already worked with Brian Eno, the Sex Pistols, the Pretenders, and Roxy Music and felt that the band had yet to capture the intensity and emotion of their live performances on record. Thomas would ultimately produce the three biggest INXS albums in their career, with Listen Like Thieves, Kick, and X, all jam-packed with powerhouse singles that would showcase the impressive range of the band from crunching rock, slithery funk to perfect pop, and take them to ultimate world domination.
The second single taken off the album was This Time, a solo writing credit for Andrew Farriss and apparently inspired by the Star Wars defence program of the USA, although there wasn’t an overtly political message in the lyrics, “This time will be the last time/ That we will fight like this…”The song was melodic, hook-laden and reminiscent of early 60’s folk rock with soft guitars and high-pitched harmony vocals. Michael’s lead was again emphatic and dramatic, but controlled, and the merging of acoustic guitar and synth riffs delivered a clever balance of new and older sounds, in an attractive rendering of the song.After apparently completing the album, Thomas requested one more killer track to spearhead the attack on the charts, Andrew Farriss (above with Hutchence) had already completed a demo track whose working title was Funk Song No.13. He combined this with two other tapes that were works-in-progress, and after allowing about 24 hours for Hutchence to write lyrics and Farriss to complete the arrangement, the finished song was presented to Thomas who approved. The song that almost got away became What You Need which took the group back into the top #2 in Australia and broke the band in the USA when it hit top #5 on the Cashbox charts. Distorted open-tuned chords intro the song in a nod to the Beatles Hard Day’s Night, followed by a staccato of snare drums, then keyboard, sax, and guitars, followed by yet another very sustained sax solo from Kirk Pengilly, it was absolute chart fodder for US radio stations, and it sold over a million copies.
Richard Lowenstein (below with Hutchence) continued the innovative trend in promo clips for the band with What You Need, which was hand painted and animated from thousands of still photographs shot in succession, a technique that was known as rotoscope, and had previously been used very effectively on a-ha’s video for Take Me On. Lowenstein used simple cameras and had the film developed at a local pharmacy in Melbourne, he then took two months to cut the photos into collage portraits, hand paint them, shoot the resulting stills onto film, and then edit then together, to make them move.By the time What You Need was released the sure-footed and focused INXS were on the way to becoming one of the top three bands in the world with their slithering, sexy, intoxicating, white boy dance music, that would ultimately be lapped up by buyers and critics alike – even in the UK, where critics there had initially been dismissive of the band, in a way generally reserved for such Antipodean invaders as INXS, and AC/DC before them.