Review Summary: The stars are all dirt and God is in the water… and hell is right here on earth.
Controversial, provocative and flamboyant are the most frequent adjectives used to describe Kirin J. Callinan. Once the guitarist for promising indie rockers Mercy Arms, this Australian musician has been notorious for his artistic provocations, thriving on testing his audience and introducing taboo subjects into his music. It's particularly fitting that his long awaited debut Embracism
feels like a deliberate provocation too. On the surface, it's a stream-of-consciousness type of endeavor that doesn't shy away from exploring every idea no matter how risky or jarring it may be. However, this potentially messy output turns out to be oddly alluring in the long run. The word 'restraint' may be foreign to this artist, but he certainly knows how to operate within the confines of various genres, which makes for an intriguing album that constantly shifts between markedly different music styles and moods.
revolves around the notions of physicality and masculinity, being seldom covered in popular music these days. This interest in the physical not only informs the record’s subject matter, but also affects its sound. Subsequently, the album starts with the trio of abrasive electro-industrial tracks that are perfectly in line with the main theme, treading a fine path between the ferocity of Nine Inch Nails and the gothic tendencies of Depeche Mode. The opener “Halo” builds from a curious trail of feedback into a quivering chorus, showcasing Cillinan's aptitude for composing infectious melodies. The blistering title track follows with its unadulterated take on the animalism inherent in the male ego, aptly built against a backdrop of savage electronica. “Come On USA” perplexes with its comic skewering of modern American society, yet the clever production of Kim Moyes (The Presets) saves it from mediocrity.
The album gets substantially less abrasive when the fourth and fifth tracks make their presence felt. “Victoria M.” is a brash baroque pop tune that enchants with Callinan's passionate crooning, while the dark ballad “Scraps” reveals the singer at his most exposed, detailing how he paid back the girl who broke his heart. In contrast, “Chardonnay Sean,” which is the most emotionally affecting cut on the disc, commemorates a deceased friend who died in a car accident. The shift from aggressive to vulnerable comes totally unexpected, just like many sonic flourishes throughout the presentation. The fact that the record manages to surprise at every turn is nothing short of commendable, bearing in mind loads of overly predictable, dull releases music fans are flooded with nowadays. In addition, Callinan accompanies his perpetually altering style with often theatrical, warped-sounding baritone vocals reminiscent of Scott Walker and Depeche Mode's David Gahan, proving equally convincing in morbid ballads and robust numbers.
seems remarkably confident for a debut release, not every experiment works in its inferior latter half. Both “Way II War” and “Love Delay” score points for being daring and adventurous, yet they fail to make a lasting impression serving more as collections of startling ideas than actual songs. Even in the record's least appealing moments, Callinan never ceases to manifest his commanding presence, though. Both primordial and forward-thinking in his approach, the musician is more than his reputation as a provocateur might imply. At its core, his first album is a potent artistic statement that's at once endearing and wildly eccentric.