Kirin J Callinan’s Tales From The Crypt


Beneath St James Cathedral, a lone figure stood. Licentious in nature (if only while onstage), a small few hundred, rubbing elbow-to-shoulder-to-mouth-to-nose, packed in like sardines to catch a glimpse of the flickering flame dancing in a ring of guitar peddles.

It was probably to no-one’s surprise that the start of Kirin’s EMBRACISM tour took place at the crypt. A location normally reserved for the blue rinse set and afternoon chamber concerts, it would only seem logical that Kirin would twist the venue on its head, returning it to its original gothic roots.

More installation than concert, there was an uneasiness to the atmosphere. The catacombs of the church lined with TVs on white noise, video projections and a howling ambiance that seemed to echo from one chamber to the next. Where attention to detail was concerned, it was delivered. Shadowed under a man-size amp, the set began with Thighs, a crooning lament chronicling the ‘deluded tale of a sexual predator’.

In all its broad ocherism, with a guitar sound very much his own, honed over years of experiments, Kirin wailed, bellowed and sang in a Bonds chesty. Two young school boys fighting in a ring. Older men dreaming of taking young thighs behind an outback shed. Dark undertones of the suburban Australian sprawl manifested themselves lyrically into perverse ideals of our sun, surf and sand culture, placing it somewhere between an outback pub, a bushranging gang and an inner-city rave complete with strobe and smoke machines.

Equally flamboyant as he is raw, with a quick slight of hand or kick of the leg, the music took on as much of a visual impact as it did sonically, an effect sometimes lost when listening to the tracks on their own. Those closest to the speakers were lucky to be out alive. Between dry stage banter and nuanced guitar passages came ear-splitting shrieks, most apparent on Kirin’s latest single, EMBRACISM, which left the audience unsettled and respectfully quiet between material, almost afraid to break the silence amidst the chaos.

Perhaps confronting to most, it is refreshing to see an artist like Kirin J Callinan stand by and recieve recognition for his vision, in a completely uncomprimising way; unlike so many artists who set out to create and entertain for the majority or greater appeal. His great swoop of success proves that now, perhaps more than ever, there is a definite cry for these forlorn ballads and noise-works of excess and violence that live in the fantasies, or are being swept under the rug of the average man. An ideal that has carried through since his work with now defunct band, Mercy Arms, supported by acts like ‘The Birthday Party’ and ‘Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders’ (whom Kirin collaborated with on HURTSVILLE).

Whether it’s for the enjoyment, or the sheer spectacle, getting to a Kirin J Callinan show is an unforgettable experience that many leave thriving on or shell-shocked. There is no middle ground, and if you aren’t being pushed against the wall, you’re being lulled into a false sense of security with a visceral whipping of sound. Not for the faint hearted.



Review by Jack Colwell. Embracism is out Friday 28th June.