INXS 1977-1997


Mystify (M Hutchence/ A Farriss) 1988 and Way of The World (M Hutchence/I Olsen) – Max Q 1989


Mystify was the fifth and last single lifted from Kick, over a year after the original release date of the album. Lyrically Michael Hutchence was visualizing a woman who has him under her spell, and it was one of his most romantic and poetic lyrics “In all that exists/ None have your beauty/ I see your face/ I will survive …” and this was a theme he would return to on the band’s next album with the song Disappear. Hutchence and Andrew Farriss wrote most of this song during a tour stop at studios in Chicago, the rest of the band loved their demo, which has an unusual structure, as it opens with vocals, followed  by keyboards and percussive finger snaps through the first chorus. It’s not until the second verse that the full instrumentation appears, and the sex appeal of the song really shines through. Most videos for the songs on Kick had slick special effects and lots of glamour shots of the band, especially Michael Hutchence, but with the Mystify video, Richard Lowenstein took a different approach, opening with a scene where Hutchence and Andrew Farriss are composing the song at a piano. Michael is wearing a tank top and has his hair in a ponytail, as he collaborates with Farriss on the lyrics, part of an instrumental version of Never Tear Us Apart is played, and when the Roland drum machine comes in , we see the whole band recording in the studio, and performing the track to a live audience, the clip had an authentic, unstaged feel to it, and Mystify would chart respectably in the  US at #17 and in the UK at #14.

Max Q was a side project by Michael Hutchence and Ian “Ollie” Olsen (together below) an avant garde underground Melbourne-based musician and DJ, formerly of the collective known as Whirlywirld, who collaborated with Hutchence on the movie Dogs in Space. INXS61Way Of The World was lifted from the Max Q album, and it has a hybrid electronic structure, very different from the INXS canon of work to that time, merging looped percussion tracks with edgy guitars, electronic beeps and the Hutchence vocal assault.INXS58It bristles with a punk/aggro meets disco/house vibe reminiscent of Depeche Mode and Massive Attack, lyrically it was quite dark, politically – charged, and it called out the military/industrial/religious complex for their failings. The album was named after Olsen’s dog and although neither Olsen nor Hutchence strongly promoted the record, the single charted a creditable #7 nationally. The Max Q collaboration was more than a vanity project for Hutchence, it took him back to his punk/new wave roots, and he and Olsen created a song which aspired to cult status over time, it was also the protest song that Michael would never have been able to make with his INXS band mates.

In a prophetic moment, the video for this song, (which was shot in New York City by Richard Lowenstein in 1989), ends with a shot of Michael and Ollie sitting on a bench with the doomed twin towers in the background, fading out after Michael turns and looks at the camera, in retrospect it was an eerie and slightly spooky moment.INXS64Michael indicated that Max Q was an opportunity for him to explore experimental musical forms not suited to INXS, and that it in no way indicated that he was tired of being part of INXS and intended to leave the band. Others weren’t so sure, INXS manager Chris Murphy worked hard to keep Hutchence grounded and close to the group, but post-Kick Michael was a bona fide international rock star and he was reveling in his celebrity and new-found wealth. Max Q was not a commercial success, the eponymous album crept into the national top twenty at #18, but by the time their third single Monday Night by Satellite had stiffed at #93 nationally, and Max Q had failed to impress in international markets, Hutchence got back to business as usual, which would be X, the seventh studio album by INXS.


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