INXS is more soulful than ever on new 'Full Moon'

November 05, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

FULL MOON, DIRTY HEARTS

INXS (Atlantic 82541)

It's not easy for a band to seem both pop-friendly and artistically daring -- particularly if, like INXS, the band has built a reputation for churning out catchy, chart-savvy singles on a regular basis. Somehow, though, "Full Moon, Dirty Hearts" lets INXS have its cake and eat it, too. There's plenty of edge to the material here, from the dense, dark throb of "The Gift" to the grungy, Stones-like snarl of "The Messenger," but that hardly takes away from the music's melodic appeal. And while the band's rhythmic axis has shifted from old-style funk to taut, hip-hop-inflected grooves, the songs sound more soulful than ever -- just listen to the way INXS' Michael Hutchence gets down with Ray Charles on "Please (You Got That)." All told, it's the band's freshest-sounding effort in ages.

I'M ALIVE

Jackson Browne (Elektra 61524)

Let's face it -- one of the first things most listeners are going to do when they get ahold of Jackson Browne's new album, "I'm Alive," will be to search the lyric sheet for references to his well-publicized breakup with actress Darryl Hannah. And considering that most of the album is devoted to breakup songs of one sort or another, there'll be plenty to read between each of his lines. But don't let that distract you from the sound of the album, because, celebrity gossip aside, the real news here is that Browne is back in the same groove that gave us albums like "Late for the Sky." Granted, some of the flavors are different -- there are gospel harmonies throughout "My Problem Is You" and reggae lilt to "Everywhere I Go" -- but the pure pleasure of hearing Browne's heartache tenor climb through each anguished verse remains as strong as ever.

NO PRESSURE

Erick Sermon (Def Jam 57460)

Inasmuch as he was the "E" in EPMD, it's only natural that Erick Sermon's solo debut would boast many of the same strengths as EPMD's later work. And "No Pressure" does indeed boast the same irreverent lyrics, irregular cadences and lazy, bass-driven grooves as "Business Never Personal." But as much as Sermon maintains the old flavor, these jams never quite come across as deja-funk; not only are the loops heavier than they used to be, but there's a layer of dissonance in there that pushes these tracks away from the usual bass-driven grooves and toward something harder and funkier. That's what keeps "Stay Real" from seeming phony, and ensures that "Hittin' Switches" hits its mark.

VIOLENT NEW BREED

Shotgun Messiah (Relativity 88561 1164)

Heavy metal ain't what it used to be. Where once the music was narrowly defined to the point of seeming catechetical, it's now broad enough to include elements of everything from hardcore to industrial. So it figures that some bands would blur the boundaries between these styles in their own music, but even so, it's a pleasant surprise to hear how artfully Shotgun Messiah updates its sound on "Violent New Breed." Although the sound is strictly modern, the writing holds fast to the traditional strengths hard-rock songwriting. So even though there's plenty of high-tech crunch to the guitars in "Revolution," the song itself is as timeless as a Black Sabbath tune, and while tracks like "Enemy in Me" and "Jihad" have enough in the way of vocal distortion and computer-driven rhythms to pass for Nine Inch Nails, there's no denying the hard-rock roots of their melodies.

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