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Daily Record 1/22/11: Welcome to Wherever You Are-INXS (1992)

In 1990s, 1992, pop, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock on January 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Welcome to Wherever You Are, the 1992 album by INXS, is an object lesson in perception versus reality in popular music. Here’s the way I remember the album:

Welcome to Wherever You Are was the second INXS album to be released since Kick, their 1987 commercial breakthrough that ruled the radio waves and singles chart in 1988. X had been a moderately successful follow-up album in 1990, but it followed the template of funk-influenced rock that INXS had established a little too closely for the band’s creative comfort. INXS was ready to shake things up and the willfully eclectic and sprawling Welcome to Wherever You Are was the result. 

When Welcome to Wherever You Are was released August of ’92, a modern rock radio station had recently been launched in Philadelphia, the first serious commercial attempt at this kind of radio format in the city since I92, an early ’80s “new wave” station. I don’t even remember now what the call letters for the early ’90s station were, but what I do remember is that the station seemed to welcome Welcome to Wherever You Are with open ears.

Based on this particular modern rock station, my perception was that a series of singles were being released from Welcome to Wherever You Are, and flying up the charts. The way I remember it, the following songs were all moderate-to-big radio hits:

  • “Heaven Sent;”
  • “Communication;”
  •  “Taste It:”
  •  “Not Enough Time;”
  •  “Baby Don’t Cry;” and
  • “Beautiful Girl”

But here’s where the reality intrudes. According to Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, only one single, “Not Enough Time” hit the Top 40, and it only peaked at #28. So, while INXS had a rooting section at modern rock radio stations, the songs weren’t quite breaking through to the top of the charts as had the singles from their previous albums. Even now, almost 20 years later, I’m surprised by this. I honestly remember these songs being all over the place when, in fact, they weren’t.

Not that Welcome to Wherever You Are was necessarily a flop. It probably sold a few million copies and it garnered some positive reviews from critics who appreciated the adventurous nature of the album. We saw INXS play at a big radio-sponsored concert in Washington sometime in 1993, where they played to probably 60,000 people. But that might have been one of the last huge crowds the band ever played to in the United States. The band released two more poorly-received albums before lead singer Michael Hutchence’s unfortunate death in November 1997.

It’s a mystery to me why Welcome to Wherever You Are wasn’t more of the success that I’ve always imagined it was, since I think it’s one of the great pop rock albums of the era. However, it was released just as the first rumblings of grunge were being heard and those rumblings signaled that bands with a relatively more carefree sound (like INXS) were going to have a rough time keeping up in the ’90s.

Maybe it was the fact that “Heaven Sent,” the dynamic track that first hit the radio from the album had Hutchence’s vocals buried deep in the mix, an odd move for a band with such a dynamic lead singer. Or maybe it was the fact that the package for the original pressings of the CD was so elaborate that nobody ever bothered to open the thing once they unwrapped it (even today I have to think about how it opens up before I try it).

No matter what its ultimate chart success was, Welcome to Wherever You Are still exists as a lost classic in the INXS discography and an intriguing look at the time just before grunge came along and changed everything, at least for a little while.

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