There has been a wave crashing over the entertainment industry, not just music but movies, television, books, just about any sector that has enjoyed a sense of history. This wave is one of a lack of necessity, not necessarily of “a bankruptcy of new ideas” as has been reported. For example, you take the first two Batman movies under the helm of Tim Burton; both were entertaining and took the character to the dark, complicated and troubled heart of the original Batman comic. It was not necessary for latter attempts to reintroduce the campiness of the TV series. Those films harmed the franchise and, in turn, necessitated rehabilitation. Along came Christopher Nolan, who succeeded smashingly.
How many “great” bad ideas have stumbled out of the Hollywood talking points arena lately? Do we need Robert Zemeckis to do a remake of The Wizard Of Oz that is faithful to the original script, and is the old version that difficult to stomach by new audiences? In music, is it necessary to try to wrestle the past down with liposuction, Botox and and a skin-tuck just to make it palatable?
This is the question that plagues the latest album by INXS. Original Sin finds the remnants of the band working with a phalanx of singers to “pay tribute” and “re-imagine” the band post-Michael Hutchence. They have the right to do so, even though Hutchence was more than just the singer of the band. He was a major co-creator of the tunes now being rehabbed for a new market, but he is gone now. It is a lingering question as to whether Rock Star: INXS show winner J.D. Fortune has amended his downward spiral enough to rejoin. If that happens, then that would be the best possible pick of available options. Fortune’s not bad, but he’s self-destructive.
Original Sin is self-destructive too, and is the prime example of the adage, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” These reinterpretations, featuring Rob Thomas, Tricky, Ben Harper and Train’s Pat Monahan, do far less to celebrate the golden years of the band than to remind the listener how badly Hutchence is missed. Fortune’s return to the fold (or recorded holdover from his album with the band) is a cover of “The Stairs” and oddly enough, is the track I felt the least queasy about. Perhaps that is psychosomatic, perhaps it is a reaction to the rest of the album and the truth is probably somewhere in-between.
This is a case of there being no necessity for this album, bottom line. With the original versions of all these songs (minus the new track, “Drum Opera”) literally at one’s keystroking fingertips, why are weak karaoke versions needed? If this is a way of taking back the songs from the Atlantic label for the sake of future licensing opportunities, why would anyone want “New Sensation” or “Never Tear Us Apart” in this configuration? The answer is that they wouldn’t, and so this exercise is one of bringing one more product to market that nobody really asked for, like a shiny, new remake of a movie that was fine as it was, or a favored television show modified for a new generation, just because the legwork had already been done.