Almanac Music – Aussie album review: INXS “Shabooh Shoobah”

INXS – Shabooh Shoobah. Released in 1982, this was the band’s third LP.



My mates and I knew that INXS would be huge. One reason, of course, was the late Michael Hutchence: a true rock star, too big for Australia to ever be able to keep for itself.


But we could sense it in the music. Just keep walking, from the first album, was – and remains – a sensational track, just different enough that it did – and still does – make the ears prick up and listen. Following soon after was the second album Underneath the Colours and the excellent single Stay young, with its snare-drum and radio-friendly hook – cool enough to confirm to us that this was a band going places.


Then, when we were in year 11, INXS released Shabooh Shoobah. My mate Macca bought the record on the day of its release and made a copy for me on a cassette tape. This was the album that created the platform for the band’s international success: the platform onto which Kick would later ascend and dance all over. It was also the album that franked Hutchence and Andrew Farriss as major songwriting talents. Bookended by the brooding opener The One Thing, which smouldered so much it nearly melted the cassette deck, and the rocker Don’t Change, just about perfect in every way, there were plenty of highlights, not the least of which were the two other singles To look at you and Black and white.


Admittedly, there were also a couple of fillers, such as Golden Playpen and Jan’s song. And this was brought home to me recently when I revisited Shabooh Shoobah on Spotify. I wouldn’t say that I was questioning my 16 year-old self’s musical tastes, but it is fair to say the album has a definitively “’80s” feel. It is in no way unlistenable, but it is chock full of Kirk Pengilly’s synthesizer, that instrument so prominent in ’80s music. I found this surprising, maybe because when I saw INXS live in the early-Eighties they came across as a guitar band first and foremost. As Hutchence sings in Black and white: “There’s nothing to stop the thief of time”.


My mates and I were proved correct. INXS rose to be, at one stage, one of the world’s biggest rock bands. It is true that the polished and varied Kick more firmly withstands that thief of time, and Shabooh Shoobah will always be regarded as the stepping stone of INXS albums. But oh, the glory of that closing track Don’t Change, which is still one of my all-time favourite Australian songs. Any album containing that track alone is still worth at the very least an occasional listen.







About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Best INXS album IMHO old mate. I always consider an album’s greatness (or otherwise) in the context of the release time. And in its day this was superb. Agree it has been robbed by time a bit. But I still enjoy it.

    One of the greatest albums of all time, when listened in the context of its time of release, is Lou Reed’s Transformer. Brilliant!! To this very day. But especially back then.

  2. Craig Stephens says

    A busker in Bourke Street delivered an amazing rendition – slower and just his guitar. Highlighted the strength of this great song to me.

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow.

    Everybody needs a Macca.

    Don’t change a thing!

    Don’t change a thing for me!

  4. John Butler says

    Smoke, some time just before this album came out I saw them live at the Bridge Hotel, Mordialloc (Ii’s surprising to think back to who played the Bridge around that time).

    I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the Hutchence charisma that night. But I think that was a function of the setting. Some personas grow as the platform does. Others shrink on the bigger stage. Hutchence was made for the big stage.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  5. Dips, we all have our favourites. S S is still right up there for me, in second spot.
    I totally agree with you regarding albums being of their time – and the need to appreciate them through that prism. It could be argued that the follow-up “The Swing” is even more of its time.
    Craig – I have seen some buskers who have more talent in their fingernails than some of these radio-friendly, Australian-idol types.
    JB – I saw them a little bit after this – they were already well on the way to stardom – but a pretty decent live outfit.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Great album. “Don’t Change” is right up there as one of the best Australian rock songs.
    I was only just 18 when M.Hutchence died. My only live INXS experience was at the drawn 2010 Grand Final when they (fronted by JD Fortune) were part of the pre-game entertainment.
    More of these fantastic Aussie album reviews please!

  7. Thanks Smokie. The bookends are, as you say, rippers. Although it was a cover, The Loved One caught my attention when I was at school as there was enough going on in it with the vocals, keyboard and swagger to suggest they might be alright. Still can’t forgive Port Adelaide.

  8. Great stuff Smokie – as a massive INXS fan from the first time I heard them on the radio, I concur with others here that some of their early work was their absolute finest. Stay Young, Don’t Change, Just Keep Walking, The Loved One (cover), To Look at You and of course Black & White are the ones that stand out for me.

    They were light years ahead and destined for international success. Unfortunately time caught up after Kick and grunge made them and other pop/rock bands dinosaurs.

  9. Manuel Lawrence says

    Loved SS. As a 16 year old growing up in small town Taiping, Malaysia I discovered lots of Aussie bands thanks to Suzanne Dowling’s Soundabout on Radio Australia. Don’t Change remains my all time favourite Aussie song, next to probably Current Stand by Kids in the Kitchen. ??Cheers

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