Kirin J Callinan – Embracism (Siberia/XL) CD REVIEW

kirin-j-callinanIN MY RESEARCH for this full-length debut by Australian Kirin J Callinan, I discovered in the literature, recurring themes of an uncompromising, brutal and shocking artist who purposefully courts distaste in order to gain notoriety. But years of raising a touring profile with little recorded output would’ve had a lot to do with that. Not to mention Kirin’s love of theatrics which may’ve gotten the best of him once or twice, such as the idea to use a strobe to induce an apparent seizure in an epileptic boy at Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain Festival in January. Everyone makes mistakes and the media run with that stuff.

I’m also reading how radical this record is but I’m not really hearing it. In it I simply hear some of the most honest music I’ve heard in eons by a guy who refuses to compromise his musical integrity. He’s being true to his own vision with no delusions whatsoever of being adored or deriving success from it. That to me is respectable, unless you consider not compromising and not sucking up to public expectation radical. In fact much of the music is quite safe, such as the song ‘Victoria M’ with its almost Smashing Pumpkins clean avant-grunge transparency.

11744But it’s true – the fleshier, more rotten pieces hanging from this carcass are the most scrumptious. The key track here, ‘Scraps’, is provocative and important in Callinan’s repertoire. It’s the first proper murder song I’ve heard since Eminem’s ‘97 Bonnie and Clyde’. Whatever happened to mass acceptance of death and murder songs anyway? Are we really so PG’ed, PC’ed and x-rated to death that we can’t enjoy a well-constructed negative connotation in a song anymore? If you’re open to that, the song ‘Scraps’ along with others on this record, delivers. And Kirin’s unapologetic Australian accent only serves to make the story even more up-close and believable. ‘You broke me, So I broke you back, Now you’re compacted with the scraps of my Nissan, That I’m missin’.

Many of the lyrics are specific and superlative in their ability to grab you by the scruff and smack you ‘round the noggin with the soggy end of the truth. Even if it’s not everyone’s truth, as in ‘Come On USA’ and the pearler, ‘I cry when I listen to Springsteen, Every time that I listen to Springsteen, Come on America, Come on USA, And come on Americans’. The words alone seem a little ambiguous but the clear meaning that vomits from the vocal delivery takes no prisoners and leaves no mystery.

Production values and sound quality are high on Embracism and the style is unique and original. I’d even say incomparable, were it not for the occasional ‘80’s-style Midnight Oil production flourish and the spectre of The Birthday Party’s Rowland S. Howard, whose influence seems to emanate from the speakers at times. But I get the feeling Kirin J Callinan is the kind of musician who couldn’t care less about fame and reverence and would just as likely cover himself in grease to slip away unnoticed. PETER KEARNS

Sound = 4/5
Music = 3.5/5

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