AOTW Review :: Kirin J. Callinan ‘Embracism’

July 8th 2013


The opening lyric of Embracism, “I covered myself in Greeeease,” paints an accurate picture of Kirin J Callinan.

Imagine a semi-naked (or quite often, naked), pale, tattooed, sweating sliver of a man and that’s your guy. His debut album delivers quite the opposite: big sounds, broad themes and timeless lyrics. “The idea is that I’m exposed,” Callinan says, “my mind’s exposed, and my body’s exposed.” Often it is his body (see below video), but his hyper-baritone growl also reveals a world that is all too real.

Callinan has become a recognisable and reappearing figure in the Sydney music scene, having lent his guitar skills to bands such as Mercy Arms, Jack Ladder and Lost Valentinos.

Embracism marks the answering of a long-asked question: “What is this man capable of?” The answer: performances so animated its impossible to differentiate as performance art or music, let alone as a genre.


There’s an honesty to Callinan you can’t help but admire. In addition to nudity, he’s partial to cross-dressing and wearing makeup. Brave, considering he’s a heterosexual man coming from a testosterone-fueled society. It’s this courage that gives Callinan the ability to charm the likes of The Presets, Grizzly Bear and Midnight Juggernauts, all bands whose hands have all touched this record. Kim Moyes produced it, Chris Taylor mixed it, and Siberia Records are distributing it.

Having scrapped the first two attempts at his debut album, this record is a serious undertaking. Callinan himself confesses, “I’ve been working on this stuff my whole life.”

The title track, ‘Embracism’ is a rebuke to Australian masculinity, led by a tense lub-dub beat sounding not unlike a human heart. The ocker, childlike taunting, “There’s gonna be a fight in the playground, gonna be a fight in the playground,” depicts a scene that any child of Australia can recognise. But he extends this bravado into manhood with piercing synth and confronting lyrics:

“you gotta prove yourself, understand yourself, show your strength, and embrace.”

Callinan’s music can be truly terrifying, but Embracism toys with the entire emotional spectrum. ‘Victoria M.’ is a triumphant ballad, tear-jerker ‘Landslide’ is now a serious contender for my funeral song, and ‘Love Delay’ is an optimistic outro that makes it all feel worthwhile. Given full attention, the record is an endlessly original experience, but it’s this eccentricity that could make Embracism too abrasive for some.

Callinan has proven he’s got the songwriting goods, but the guitar skills he is renowned for take a backseat to keys and vocals. The next step for Callinan will be to grab that guitar and harness that holler. You’d better get used to his oily body and makeshift tattoos because I have a feeling we will be seeing much more of Kirin J Callinan.


Kirin J Callinan’s ‘Embracism’ is out now through Siberia Records. FBi’s album of the week: June 28 – July 6.


Kirin J Callinan | AOTW Reviews


Read more from FBi Radio