Review Summary: It's not a fucking joke.“I think it’s funny if that’s what you’re getting at, I think the record’s deeply funny. Just ‘cause something’s funny doesn’t mean it’s a joke, I’m deadly serious about it.”
-Kirin J Callinan, interview with The Feed
Humor is a funny thing.
Everyone has a different opinion of what is funny and what isn't. In some ways, it's one of the only things more objective than taste in music. One thing that might be funny to someone might be deeply offensive to the other, and vice versa. I mean, of course it’s hilarious. “Big Enough”’s classic meme moments, the horrible suicidal puns of “Down 2 Hang” hit the spot for me, but then again they definitely won’t for everyone.
Perhaps then what makes his latest album Bravado
work so damn well is that it doesn’t just rely on its humor to succeed. While someone might not think it’s funny, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think that Bravado
isn’t musically impressive. On the opener “My Moment,” he gallops from an electronic tinged ballad into a full on dance number complete with a bass-drop and incomprehensible synth melodies. On “Down 2 Hang” we’re treated with menacing disco-guitar riffs and gang vocals. The whole song sounds familiar and yet frighteningly distorted into something disturbing yet endlessly listenable. And the constant musical switcheroos aren’t played for laughs as often as, say, Igorrr, might be guilty of. No, these are motivated musical decisions that allow the songs to work far better than they would otherwise, and also happen to be insanely amusing at the same time. Sure, at its core it’s just pop music, but it’s delightfully exciting and engaging pop music throughout.
Another factor in its success as more than just a comedy album is that there’s far more honesty and emotion than one might expect. I mean, I’m as much of a Weird Al fan as the next guy, but I can’t remember the last time one of his songs made me feel something as deeply as “Family Home” does on here. When Kirin sadly mumbles lines about how, “It’s funny now, but it wasn't then,” no one is laughing. We believe every emotion presented to us through his delivery, no matter how ironic and cheesy it might be in the end.
And that’s the beauty of a performer like Kirin. There’s not just one layer presented here. There isn’t just a joke. There’s talent, raw emotion, and deep frustrations that lie under the surface. One could as easily compare “Big Enough” to a political statement as they could to a comedy skit. What makes Bravado
work is that it refuses to rely only on humor, so even when a joke might not land, any given track can still be commended for its versatile and unique musicianship. And at the times when you can’t even tell whether he’s joking or not, there’s a tantalizing air of mystery to the whole endeavor. In that same interview with The Feed, Kirin commented that:
“Confusion’s exciting. It’s when you don’t understand that your eyes light up; electricity starts racing. If you knew what was going on all the time you’d have a pretty damn boring existence.”
You’ve got a good point there, Kirin. And for all that can be said about it, certainly no one could argue that Bravado
is a boring experience.