Several long-running rock bands have had to replace vocalists: Both Journey and Foreigner have toured recently with substitute singers, and even Queen has continued without the distinctive Freddie Mercury. Australian new wave group INXS hasn't had a permanent singer since Michael Hutchence's suicide in 1997, and last year the group conducted a talent search in the form of a reality show, "Rock Star: INXS." Part "American Idol," part band advertisement, the show picked J.D. Fortune (a Canadian Elvis impersonator) to front the group.
Fortune's experience as the King shows in the slick, note-perfect vocals he contributes to "Switch," his first album with INXS. Although Fortune does have similarities to Hutchence, the group sounds more like a hard-rocking, male-fronted Garbage than old-school dance-funk INXS. Fortune's energy helps propel the '80s sensation into a new millennium, with songs full of his rock-star sexuality. Nearly every song captures his overt lust, from "Perfect Strangers" ("Don't tell me your name, just use that pretty mouth/to kiss me if you want this") to the almost offensive "Hot Girls," with its breathy, female, Asian chatter interspersed among aggressive choruses ("Now, hot girls, come and break me, break me/Hot girls, take me where you are going").
"Rock Star: INXS" runner-up Marty Casey and his band, Lovehammers, channel a less overt sexuality on their self-titled album, which compiles songs from their five-year career. Although Casey would have meshed well with INXS, the Lovehammers album carries a harder-edged, post-grunge sound. (Coincidentally, the near-metal "Straight as an Arrow" was recorded by former Nirvana engineer Steve Albini.) The band doesn't invent any sounds that Nickelback and Creed haven't already honed, but "Marty Casey & Lovehammers" is a well-polished hard-rock collection.
-- Catherine P. Lewis