Quintessential Albums :: Listen Like Thieves :: INXS


Listen Like Thieves :: INXS
Quintessential Albums

A Little History:

Listen Like Thieves is the fifth album by the Australian rock band INXS. It was released in 1985. Considered a breakthrough album for the band, it featured their first top 5 single in the United States, What You Need. This album also marks the beginning of their off-and-on alliance with Chris Thomas.

INXS (pronounced “in excess“) were an Australian rock band, formed as The Farriss Brothers in 1977 in Sydney, New South Wales. Mainstays were main composer Andrew Farriss on keyboards, Jon Farriss on drums, Tim Farriss on guitar, Kirk Pengilly on guitar and saxophone, Garry Gary Beers on bass, and main lyricist Michael Hutchence on vocals For 20 years, INXS were fronted by Hutchence, whose “sultry good looks” and magnetic stage presence made him the focal point of the band. Initially known for their new wave/ska/pop style, they later developed a harder pub rock style,including funk and dance elements.

In the early 1980s, INXS first charted in their native Australia with their debut self-titled album, but later garnered moderate success elsewhere with Shabooh Shoobahand a single, The One Thing. Though The Swing brought more success from around the world, its single Original Sin was even greater commercially, becoming their first # 1 single.

They would later achieve international success with a series of hit recordings through later in the 1980s and the 1990s, including the albums Listen Like ThievesKick, and X.

During 1984, INXS toured non-stop performing across Europe, the UK, the US and Australia and by December 1984, The Swing, was double platinum, making it, at the time, one of the five biggest domestic albums in the history of Australian music.

In March 1985 the band re-entered Sydney’s Rhinoceros Studios to record their next album (Listen Like Thieves), together with producer Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd, The Pretenders, Elton John, Pulp).

Michael Hutchence said, of the album and Chris Thomas’ involvment in its creation,

“This is what we’ve trying to do one way or another for a few years now, that is to make an album that is purely just form and function of the songs. It has no artistic pretentions.”

As the band were finishing the recording sessions, Chris Thomas told the band that the album was not good enough and still had no “killer” track, which Andrew Farriss recalls,

“We’d already finished the Listen Like Thieves album but Chris Thomas told us there was still no ‘hit’. We left the studio that night knowing we had one day left and we had to deliver ‘a hit’. Talk about pressure.”

Andrew produced a demo tape of a “funk” song he had been working on with the working title, ‘Funk Song No. 13’, which evolved into What You Need. Chris Thomas remembers it as,

“Then Andrew brought in three demos – two songs that had been completed and he played me a thing that was just this riff – dink, dink, dink-a-dink-and it was great. I thought, ‘ I could listen to that groove for ten minutes!’ I said, ‘Let’s work with that groove.’ So, we went with that and in just two days it turned into the song that eventually broke them, What You Need.”

On 19 May 1985, INXS won seven awards at the 1984 Countdown Music and Video Awards ceremony. They performed Burn for You, dressed in Akubras (hats) and Drizabones (outdoor coats/oilskin jackets).

The band performed five songs for the July 1985 Oz for Africa concert, in conjunction with the Live Aid benefit. Two INXS songs, What You Need and Don’t Change, were also in the BBC broadcast and are contained on Live Aid’s four DVD boxed set released in 2004.

INXS had started out as a New Wave act, gradually moved in a more straight-ahead rock-oriented direction through the first half of the 1980s.

Listen Like Thieves was released in October 1985, was approved of by critics, reaching # 3 on the Australian charts and # 11 on the US charts. With the release of Listen Like Thieves, the band had developed a rock sound influenced by Led Zeppelin and XTC, but remained true to the band’s original roots in Aussie pubs.

It was also the first album to feature songs written by a combination of band members, with Andrew Farris and Hutchence becoming the primary songwriters in the years to follow.

The first US single from the album, This Time, stalled at # 81 in late 1985, but the next single, What You Need, released there in early 1986, became a top five Billboard hit, bringing INXS their first break-out US success. The single was also a top 20 hit in Canada, reached # 2 in Australia (September 1985), but only # 51 on the UK charts.

The British press dismissed the album, with New Musical Express calling the band ‘INX-cusable’ and a reviewer declaring Listen Like Thieves to be a ‘complete and utter turkey’.

In the United States however Rolling Stone Magazine wrote “INXS rocks with passion and seals the deal with a backbeat that’ll blackmail your feet.”

In August 1985, INXS toured ahead of the album’s release, touring South America before returning to Melbourne to play for Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales at a concert in Australia, it was filmed and later released on home video entitled Living INXS, an edited version of the concert was played on MTV in the US in 1985 on their Saturday night concert series.


What Makes This “Quintessential” In Three Sentences:

The album starts with a spark and an infectious beat that is completely impossible to ignore, and equally impossible to not move to, right from there, from that start, the album hooked me in. That said, it is the moodier numbers that address emotional turmoil, challenges, and facing disappointments, and what comes after that face up, that makes this album so vital – and “quintessential” – to me. There is a feeling of possibility to the songs, of forgiving and getting on with it, and of there being another day waiting there; those messages bring me back to be soothed and musically embraced (and yes, sometimes to play track one loud – and dance).


My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Shine Like It Does

And from each moment,
all that is left,
sleep of the innocent,
just one desire

2. Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)

Eden let’s me in.
I find the seeds of love,
and climb upon the high wire;
I kiss and tell all my fears

3. This Time

I’ve seen you before,
turn and walk away.
You say you won’t come back,
it’s a game anyway

4. Listen Like Thieves

You are all you need,
so don’t hesitate,
there’s no time to waste,
you just do it for yourself

5. Red Red Sun

There’s a red, red sun,
and I’m thinking of you


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