When INXS embraced new direction on ‘Welcome to Wherever You Are’

INXS‘s eighth album kicks off with a song called “Questions” — which is fitting, because there are still questions about where Welcome wherever you are fits into the band’s history.

Comes from the multiplatinum trifecta of Sound like thieves, Kick and x (and platinum success with the 1991s Live Baby Live concert set), the Australian sextet was at a bit of a crossroads. Despite x‘s global success — including its fourth No. 1 move at home and a No. 5 peak on the Billboard 200 — there was critical grousing that the album was more of the same.

“We kind of felt the same way [about X]although we liked the album,” singer Michael Hutchence told this writer at the time Welcome wherever you are‘s publication. “You know, we’ve been touring so hard around the world. It hasn’t left the time we might want to be creative.”

Saxophonist and guitarist Kirk Pengilly also noted at the time: “We’ve done a lot of shows in our 15 years together, but only eight records. We usually tour up to two years after each album, which means three years have passed between some of the albums. We want to record a little bit more. If you’re constantly touring album-tour-album-tour, it ends up kind of squashing creativity. Just when you really get going, you go on tour and you lose that spark again .”

So INXS approached Welcome wherever you are with an eye toward change, or at least musical adventure. Chief songwriters Hutchence and Andrew Farriss worked on the material during x world tour and hunkered down even more as soon as it finished, with the band rehearsing the new material for a while at the Sydney Opera House and looking forward to the sessions.

Watch INXS’ ‘Not Enough Time’ Video

However, they were a bit full. INXS had changed producers, moving from Chris Thomas after three albums to Mark Opitz, who had worked on the 1982s Shaboo Shooba.

However, Hutchence spoke of wanting to be “more raw” in the band’s approach Welcome … would also feature some of the group’s most ambitious productions. “We feel pretty comfortable in the studio at the moment,” Pengilly acknowledged.

But INXS faced a number of complications while work continued at Rhinoceros Studios in Sydney. Guitarist Tim Farris missed most of the sessions as he dealt with a painful exostosis (bone spur). Bassist Garry Gary Beers and his wife were awaiting the impending birth of their second child, while Pengilly was suffering the end of a long relationship and drummer Jon Farris was preparing to marry.

That’s what producer Opitz said in the official band biography INXS: History to History that “the album is very much Andrew, Michael and myself. We didn’t have everyone’s thoughts on the job because some of them were going through important things in their personal lives.” (Pengilly began dating Australian singer Deni Hines after she sang on the tracks “Not Enough Time” and “Strange Desire”, and they married in December 1993, although their union lasted only 10 months.)

Watch INXS’ ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ Video

But all hands were on deck as INXS recorded two tracks – “Baby Don’t Cry” and “Men and Women” – with the 64-piece Australian Concert Orchestra conducted by Colin Piper. “It was something else,” Pengilly recalled. “We recorded the whole number live, with the orchestra and the band playing together. During one of the breaks when we were out mingling with some of the [orchestra] players they asked, ‘Why does it sound different every time we take a take?’ One of the guys explained to them that we were actually playing live with them. They were amazed; they are used to playing to a pre-recorded backing track. Consequently, the recording after that was really great because they were so jazzy that we played together.”

Welcome wherever you are was by most measures a success when it was released on Aug. 3, 1992. It debuted at No. 2 in Australia, albeit after four consecutive No. 1s, but bowed out at No. 16 on the Billboard 200, a steep drop from xis No. 5 shows. However, it was certified platinum and launched Top 10 hits in the rocking “Heaven Sent,” “Taste It” and “Not Enough Time.” The band would not hit that level again; their next three albums with Hutchence were lower and did not sell as well, a commercial slump in the midst of grunge from which the group never recovered.

Watch INXS’ ‘Heaven Sent’ Video

“We were delighted [Welcome to Wherever You Are],” Andrew Farriss told this writer years later. “We worked really hard. I thought there were some really good songs in there…that still hold up. I still talk to fans who say it’s their favorite album, so I think it connected with a lot of people.”

INXS also shut down their tour at that moment and supported Welcome wherever you are with small hall and club dates in North America and elsewhere. “I think we’ve had enough success,” Hutchence said at the time. “We’ve done Wembley Stadium. We’ve played to 100,000 people in Sydney. Don’t get me wrong; it’s been great … but it’s just as exciting in many ways to do a club tour around the world. It’s still the same music and all that, but it has a whole different feel.” He added that fans in some territories, including North America, had not had a chance to see INXS in more intimate spaces because outside of Australia they had hit the terrestrial opening for Men at work and Go-Go’samong other.

“The strange thing about being from overseas and having a semblance of success straight away is that people have never really seen you do the gigs that got you going, the real early stuff in the clubs that we used to do in Australia ,” Hutchence explained. “We want to give our fans over here a taste of that.”

That Welcome wherever you are however, the tour was much shorter than its predecessors. INXS returned briefly and worked on a follow-up, 1993’s Full moon, dirty heartsagain with Opitz.

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