Thirty-five years ago today, INXS released their third LP and their first to be released internationally. Shabooh Shoobah hit on October 16, 1982 on the heels of lead single “The One Thing” and marked the band’s first appearance on both the single and album charts in America.
I didn’t hear the record in 1982. It was probably close to ten years later when the woman I was dating introduced me to INXS’s earlier work. I’d heard of them when they released “Listen Like Thieves” in 1985, but it was 1987‘s Kick that really captured my attention while they were busy conquering the world. Going back to their earlier records took some openmindedness, but it ended up being worth it.
The two best songs on the album are the lead tracks on each side (or tracks one and six in the digital world). “The One Thing” is a pop/rock masterpiece that opens with massive guitar and drums complemented by keyboard stabs, all riding an enormous bassline that propels the whole song. Michael Hutchence‘s voice is strong and sure and the structure of the song is near perfect, with the saxophone bridge midway through the track tying its two halves together.
“Black And White” opens Side 2 and is uptempo dance-rock at its best. Jon Farris‘s drums are frenetic and urgent and Garry Gary Beers‘s bassline likewise has a frantic energy about it. This was no proto-disco new wave dance cut, though. The melody is sparing with no obvious guitar or vocal hook. This is pure rock-and-roll, its garage influences all intact.
The rest of the album is solid and well worth the price of admission. As their introduction to the world, it serves well. Highlights abound throughout the record, from the drumming in “Black And White” to Kirk Pengilly‘s saxophone on “Golden Playpen.” Michael Hutchence’s voice is stellar throughout the recording but mixed more to the fore on tracks like, “To Look At You,” where it really shines through. Even the reggae accents on “Jan’s Song” don’t detract as much as they do on missteps by contemporaries (Joe Jackson‘s Beat Crazy, I’m looking at you). And the closing track “Don’t Change” hints at the sounds that would propel them to enormous success five years down the road.
This is an album I don’t go back to as frequently as I should. There was a time when I’d listened to it repeatedly over a short period and considered it the equal to anything INXS had put out to that point. Though that opinion may have shifted somewhat over the years (I definitely prefer Kick and X as complete albums over Shabooh, Shoobah), this album is still a welcome companion for an afternoon or a drive. So, while there are other INXS albums I’d recommend starting with, I’d definitely also recommend going back to this one whenever you get the chance.