INXS: Michael Hutchence shines in new doc ‘Mystify’
When The Buggles sang “Video Killed the Radio Star” back in 1979, no one predicted the devastation that would be wrought by the dawn of the internet mere decades later, taking with it the popularity of a band whose commercial success once would have been the envy of any rising star in the music industry.
INXS quickly became known for its soulful pop-rock style, and by the late 80s, the group had solidified its hard rock, dance, and new wave presence into a polished, dynamic sound that made its 1987 album, Kick, a raging success.
No star shone brighter than the Jagger-esque swagger and stage presence of Michael Hutchence captured elegantly in the new documentary Mystify. The band’s lead singer’s 1997 death brought the band’s heyday to a screeching halt- add the internet age and constantly-changing music industry and you have a recipe for the downfall of INXS.
INXS never recovered from losing Michael Hutchence
In the years following Hutchence’s death, “everything changed rapidly,” said the producer Giles Martin, who remastered the sound for “Live Baby Live” at Abbey Road Studios. “If you look at someone who is comparable to Michael Hutchence, like Jim Morrison from the Doors, that band didn’t suffer the same sudden changes in technology as INXS did,” which greatly impacted its legacy, he explained.
The band’s attempts at a comeback continued up and throughout the 2010s, including their participation in the reality series Rock Star: INXS in 2005, ultimately resulting in the selection of Canadian J.D. Fortune as their new lead singer.
Mystify brings light to Hutchence’s darkest years
Mystify, which will be released digitally on Jan. 21 and on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 31 — delves deep into the life and times of Hutchence and INXS in their glory days. Written and directed by Richard Lowenstein, a friend of Hutchence’s, the doc takes a heartbreaking look at the late singer’s life, starting with his childhood and early teen years and ending with his death.
Instead of showing the people in Hutchence’s life on screen, Mystify goes in a more somber direction, with only their voices to tell the whole story. This simultaneously heightened the overall integrity of the project while putting the documentary’s visuals at the forefront: intimate movies of him as a child and adult, including studio time with INXS and a peek into his romantic life; vintage concert footage; and touching family photographs.
The result is a soft-focused picture of the late rockstar’s life and legacy, downplaying the sensationalized version of the story so often portrayed in the media; for example, the film sheds some much-needed light on the traumatic brain injury Hutchence received in 1992 following an altercation with a taxi driver, which those close to him often indicate was a major catalyst for his change in behavior.
Will Mystify inspire an INXS comeback?
The question on everyone’s mind is- will the doc carry with it a resurgence in popularity to the wildly forgotten band? The Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas certainly seems to think so.
Thomas performed with INXS’s Andrew Farriss in Australia to commemorate the anniversary of Hutchence’s death. On the loss of Michael Hutchence, Rob Thomas conveyed the impact his suicide had on the music world, “More people should have been saying the name Michael Hutchence as much as they said Prince, Madonna or any of the other great icons from that era.”
Hinting at a spike in popularity for INXS and immortalization for Hutchence, he continued, “maybe a film or television moment that brings them back into the grand consciousness. They certainly should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”