Elegantly Wasted is the tenth studio album by Australian rock band INXS. It was released in April 1997, and is the final album recorded with lead singer Michael Hutchence, who was found dead in a Sydney hotel room in November that same year.
The band had spent April 1996 rehearsing in London, and moved over to Vancouver to record with producer Bruce Fairbairn in December that year. Production of the album was completed by Michael and Andrew in Spain by February 1997.
All three Farriss brothers dedicated the album to their mother, Jill, who died in 1995. Two songs that did not make the final cut of the album were included on the Bang the Drum EP (2004).
Shortly after the release of their Greatest Hits in 1994, INXS ended their contract with Atlantic Records and signed a new worldwide record deal with PolyGram/Mercury Records. After a long break, INXS reconvened in 1996 to record their tenth studio album Elegantly Wasted, their last with Hutchence. In 1995, Hutchence already began work on his self-titled solo album. The project was put on hold until Elegantly Wasted was completed. In an interview with The Album Network magazine in March 1997, Hutchence said "We really wanted to get off the old carousel for a while. As a band, we have recorded an album every twelve to eighteen months over the last five or six years. This helped to create a situation resulting in a lot of personal and business friction within the band, as well as the record label, at the time of the completion of our last studio album Full Moon, Dirty Hearts. With the completion of the album, we also fulfilled our contract with Atlantic Records. So, it just seemed like the logical time to take a break." PolyGram studios in London paired the band with Canadian producer Bruce Fairbairn, their first and only collaboration. Fairbairn was best known for his smash successes with other famous rock groups including, Aerosmith, Kiss and AC/DC.
With both Andrew Farriss and Hutchence living in London, the pair first started talking about the project over the phone. After spending months talking about new ideas, Farriss and Hutchence finally got together and began working on new material. Using 24-track reels and ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape) recorders the pair put together a handful of demo tapes which included an early version of the song "Searching". The remaining members of INXS later flew out to meet Farriss and Hutchence in London. When the entire group finally got together, they began rehearsing the material that Farriss and Hutchence previously recorded. The rehearsals began in April 1996. While visiting friends Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. from U2 in Dublin during the summer of 1996, Farriss and Hutchence rented a small studio where they continued working on the album. They put the finishing touches on the existing demo tapes as well as composing new recordings. One of the first songs to be completed during these sessions was "Searching". The band first previewed the song live at the Australian ARIA Music Awards in September 1996.
Before meeting with Fairbairn the band sent him all the material they had been working on. Fairbairn had just finished working with Irish rock band, The Cranberries. Upon receiving the material Fairbairn later commented, "I was impressed with the feel and the different sounds that they'd been using." He added "I actually ended up suggesting that we might want to save some of the stuff on the demos – because the chances were that when we were back in the studio we wouldn't be able to recreate that vibe." After listening to the material, Fairbairn flew to London to meet with the band. He spent a few afternoons with Farriss and Hutchence discussing the project. A date was set for production at Fairbairn's own recording studio in Vancouver with both himself and Farriss producing. When later asked about his role in the production of Elegantly Wasted, Fairbairn said, "Well, I didn't really co-produce with the band, but the record was produced with Andrew Farris. Andrew was certainly a player at the demo stage, and as we ended up keeping some of the stuff on the demos I felt that it was fair to recognise his contribution in some way."
The band first arrived at the Armoury studio in Vancouver in December 1996 to begin the recording sessions. Most of the demos that were brought out to Vancouver had to be reorganised, taking out and discarding certain parts as well as adding in new drum beats and bass lines. Some members of the band had to provide overdubbing on the existing demos including Hutchence who recorded new overdubs on the vocals. Most of the album was recorded digitally. The drums, bass and guitar on the tracks "Girl on Fire", "We Are Thrown Together" and "Bang the Drum" (later dropped during production) were recorded using analogue equipment. The majority of the vocals were performed in a small studio in Marbella, Spain in February 1997. Additional musicians were brought in to provide backing vocals on "Don't Lose Your Head", "Searching" and "I'm Just a Man". After production in Spain had wrapped the recordings were taken to the townhouse in London and mixed by music producer Tim Lord-Alge with the album set for an April release. The album's title was thought up by Hutchence with the single itself trying to recapture the magic and groove of the Kick album, particularly the single, "Need You Tonight".
INXS embarked on their 20th anniversary tour in support for Elegantly Wasted beginning in the U.S. on April 17, 1997 at the Irving Plaza in New York. During their time in New York, INXS were asked to appear on numerous talk shows to perform the album's brand new single ("Elegantly Wasted") including the Rosie O'Donnell show on April 16 and the Late Show with David Letterman on April 22. The group would play three more shows in big cities across North America, finishing up the first leg of the tour at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles, California on April 24.
The second leg of the tour brought the band to South Africa, their first and only tour of the country. A few days before playing their first show at the 3 Arts Theatre in Cape Town on May 29, the band was hurriedly asked by the producers of Face/Off to shoot a music video for the albums third single, "Don't Lose Your Head". The video was shot by long-time collaborator and friend Nick Egan, inside a large plane hangar on an airstrip located in Cape Town. After playing a show in Durban the group travelled up to Johannesburg to play three shows at the Ellis Park Arena (formerly known as the Standard Bank Arena) beginning on June 3 and finishing on June 5. The tour continued across Europe were the band played various arenas and festivals beginning June 9 at the Barrowland ballroom in Glasgow, Scotland and ending on July 5 at the Midtfyns Festival in Ringe, Denmark.
INXS toured the U.S. again, returning on July 11 were they played numerous shows in major cities along the West Coast. In late August, the band started making their way across the Midwest, performing one show almost every night throughout different cities. A show in Milwaukee was cancelled on August 27 after it was reported in a newspaper that Hutchence had severely sprained his ankle. The tour continued right through to late September with shows being played in Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario in Canada. While playing a show in Montreal, Nicolas Cage was spotted by fans in the VIP balcony near the stage. Hutchence dedicated "What You Need" and "Don't Lose Your Head" (used in Cage's movie Face/Off) to the actor. Their last concert with Hutchence was at the Star Lake Amphitheatre in Burgettstown, PA on September 27, 1997.
The band returned to Sydney, Australia in November 1997 to prepare for their homecoming tour.
A mini video shoot was specially shot and directed for the album's cinematic album art. The entire video shoot was directed and photographed by Danish photographer Pierre Winther in locations around California in 1996. Winther, famous for his filmic visionary manages to tell a complex story in each of his staged shots. The front cover for Elegantly Wasted shows a dramatic shot of the band caught up in a cinematic setting where it appears that an attractive girl has emerged safely from a car accident just under Fourth & Lorena St. Bridge in 2271 Jesse Street, downtown Los Angeles. A different photograph of the girl getting out of the car was shot and used as the artwork for the "Elegantly Wasted" single. The same girl can be seen wandering the streets of San Francisco in the music video for the album's second single, "Searching". The album's booklet contains additional photography of the band near the Edwards Air Force Base in the Californian desert. The artwork for the singles, "Searching" and "Everything" featured photographs as the cover art which were also taken in the Californian desert. Only three songs from the track listing had lyrics printed in the liner notes; the title track, "Elegantly Wasted", "Show Me (Cherry Baby)" and "Shake the Tree".
Reviews for the album were mixed. Rolling Stone, Q magazine and AllMusic all rated the album two stars, with Stephen Thomas Erlewine writing in his AllMusic review, "The band does dabble in contemporary dance on Elegantly Wasted, but it all comes out sounding like the lite funk-n-roll of Kick, only without the energy. And without the tunes." In her review for Rolling Stone magazine Elysa Gardner said that Elegantly Wasted feels like "An exercise in nostalgia" and added "The sinuous dance grooves and crackling bursts of guitar in new songs such as "Elegantly Wasted" and "Don't Lose Your Head" don't seem very fresh."
In a more enthusiastic review, Entertainment Weekly scored the album an "A" and wrote, "The Jaggersque vocal yowl of Michael Hutchence, matched to the spiky James Brown funk of the Farriss brothers, gives their new melodies swing and tone." GQ Magazine also gave the album a favourable review calling Elegantly Wasted "Vibrant and exciting" and concluded that "The '80 revival starts here."
The album did not perform well as anticipated. In the U.S. it only reached number 41 on the Billboard Top 200. It did sell better outside the U.S. peaking at number 14 in both Canada and Australia and number 16 in the United Kingdom. Elegantly Wasted was certified Gold in Canada on May 9, 1997 having sold 50,000 copies.
All tracks written by Andrew Farriss and Michael Hutchence."Elegantly Wasted"/"Need You Tonight" (March 1997)
"Everything"/"Let It Ride" (May 1997)
"Don't Lose Your Head"/"I'm Just a Man" (live) (September 1997)
"Searching" (September 1997)
3 track Shagsonic Dub promo, A1 "Elegantly Wasted (Shagsonic Dub)", B1 "Elegantly Wasted (Shagsonic Remix)", B2 "Elegantly Wasted (Shagsonic Bonus Beats)" (1997)
Personnel as listed in the album's liner notes are: