Kirin J Callinan is one of those paradoxical artists who push our ability to differentiate between brilliant and bad. In other words, he’s a tonic for complacency. The fact that his tongue-in-cheek volatility is intentional just makes the ambitiousness of Bravado all the more intriguing.
Sit down, take a deep breath and try to forget everything you think you know about pop. Callinan’s second album is a joyously fascinating and kinetic exploration of pop conventions, oversaturated EDM and wry experimentation with the boundaries of taste, humour and theatricality.
The cover should be a tip off – is he peeing on himself?
Enter stage left: My Moment featuring Sean Nicholas Savage and Callinan’s own laconic, monotoned delivery – “Night on the piss / The shit hits the fan” – closely followed by a garishly saccharine ‘00s dance section (remember Crazy Frog?) It’s a little Rocky Horror Picture Show and definitely more approachable than 2013’s satirically observant hyper-macho debut Embracism.
S.A.D talks about drugs. See: ‘Song About Drugs’. There’s a little more of that choppy, distorted strangeness that we know him for between touches of EDM-inflected hip hop and a bunch of key changes.
The whole thing feels like a farrago of insanely talented, iconic musicians decided to host a trashy karaoke party, to which no one showed up. So they all got drunk and performed in their underwear. We’ve got Mac DeMarco, Weyes Blood, Neil Finn, James Chance, Alex Cameron, Connan Mockasin, Owen Pallett… A cut’n’paste collage of artists that, defying logic, work perfectly together.
The absurdity continues on Living Each Day, recorded with Mark Ronson in London with Connan Mockasin in tow. At this point you just know that they’re in Ronson’s studio trying not to make a laughing mess of it all. But then again, as Callinan says: just because it’s funny doesn’t mean it’s a joke.
Big Enough strategically scrambles every dance formula under the sun in the best possible way. With Jimmy Barnes on trademark howling duties and the bizarre addition of champion whistler Molly Lewis… well, you just can’t stop grinning.
Things become a little calmer and more cohesive for Family Home. Yep, that’s Neil Finn leading a choir of other Finns. Just go with it. Cue cheesy ‘80s balladry and – because why not? – samples of a voicemail message and a Skype blip.
He’s even included some classic ‘sha la la la’s on Telling Me This. I didn’t know I’d been waiting for those.
It’s big and silly and weird and obnoxious and has a lot of, well, bravado… but it did warn you.
Kirin J Callinan – Bravado
Released: 9 June, 2017 via Siberia/EMI