Gig Review: Kirin J Callinan

Thursday 15th January @ The Aurora Spiegeltent

There are some performers who defy a single identity. There are some characters that fiction itself could not have imagined. And there are some people who spit in the face of categorisation. Now, there are very few people in this world that can live up to such a reputation. It’s an unknown feat, something rarer than a intelligent comment from Fred Nile. But last night, Kirin J Callinan delivered a performance, in the truest sense of the word, that will ruin perspective for all in attendance. It’s going to be a long time before anyone, or anything, will be able to match the stage power of Kirin J Callinan.

In the Aurora Spiegltent, as part of Sydney Festival, Kirin J Callinan adorns the stage at a little past midnight. A bewitching hour for a bewitching figure. He’s had a costume change from his earlier jaunt at Alex Cameron’s set (who played fantastically as always – one of the best albums of modern times), moving from a sleeveless, floral blue shirt, blood-orange pants and spectacles, to a commanding but minimalist staunchly-white singlet, and thick, gold chain. It seems like an insignificant change, but it allows for his body to ripple and flex throughout his show, adding to the delight and fright of his performance.

Summarising the performance of Kirin J Callinan is useless. It’s an event built upon contradiction; nuance and spectacle sidle side-by-side. Everything has the haze of improvisation and spontaneity, and yet things are too flawlessly perfect. Each line of stage banter that drips from his mouth is an execution of dark comic genius. Every lyric is loaded with an intention, but these intentions vary from phrase to phrase, schizophrenically jumping around, and rarely aligning with the recorded product.

For this, Kirin J Callinan’s performance is literally one of a kind. His prior show was nothing like the one we are witnessing. The one after will also be nothing like the one occurring. In this current moment, the people are witnessing something incredibly special. An opening act that feels like David Lynch is unleashing a horror movie on our minds, as “Stretch It Out” banshee screams burn their way into our skulls. Kirin is a terrifying presence on stage, a God amongst men, distorting sounds and melodies into some of the most thrilling and pungent songs ever created. His style is a lovebite, achingly beautiful, a template of pleasure and pain.

Like a snake on top of Medusa’s head, the set winds whilst turning everyone into stone. An early exhibition of “Landslide” has folks crying out for, “…dust and dirt…”, and his voice mildly chokes everyone in attendance into total adoration. The pain is splattered elaboratley, broad brushstrokes of heartache as apparent as any bruise. But so swiftly, the performance maintains its uninhibited ride into madness. “Embracism” tears strips from the flesh with its masculine overture, and a new cut, known only as “The Teacher” turns the atmosphere into that of a forlorn prom scene from an unmade John Hughes movie.

However, it was a theatrical performance of “Victoria M.”, followed by a finale of “Way II War” and “Love Delay”, that stole hearts. What resounded in the small tent that night could have been felt around the world. It felt historic, watching such a diverse array of romanticism, disgust, euphoria and snarling bravado intermingle so organically. Man and machine become one, eyes are fixed upon a triumphant figure holding a guitar aloft, a thrashing crowd falls in love over and over again.

An encore followed, a solo performance of forever-to-be-unreleased, yet crowd-encompassing tune referred to as “The Toddler”, followed by a collaboration between Kirin J Callinan and Alex Cameron called “Big Enough”. Watching two artists, who have dominated and elevated Australian music for the better, intertwine and profess such a profound musical impact, was a moment that softened the blow that this event would be over.

We, the people, did not deserve this. The boisterously drunk crowd who consistently heckled a figure as unique as Mr. Callinan felt inappropriate. But the man wore it, persevering and still putting on one of the best shows many in attendance have undoubtedly seen. The whole thing is visionary, and unprecedentedly fantastic. There are no words to describe the greatness of Kirin J Callinan’s live show that wouldn’t develop as understatements.

All that can be said is this…thank you. For putting up with the distractions, for persisting, for strutting a sinewy frame into oblivion, and back. For the enchanting music, the glorious strobes, the brutally honest and dark revelations that are shared so openly. For the clanging clashes of contradiction that allow something so completely new to be formed. For re-imagining our Australian landscape, in much the same way that The Drones, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Jack Ladder have, and turning an eye onto what we were blind to before. For mixing surreal entertainment, fanatic reverie and pure originality into a cocktail stirred by the gnashing mouth of the beast.

Thanks.

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Video: Alex Cameron-Taking Care of Business

Alex Cameron, the frontman of Seekae and a stunner of a solo musician in his own right, is the saviour of music. Piracy is ruining the industry, most bands can’t get paid, but it’s cool: Alex Cameron is taking care of business. TCB baby, TCB.

‘Taking Care of Business’ was one of the highlights from Alex Cameron’s solo debut, that was released late last year. In a record of 80’s synth tunes, packed with brilliant nods to a man in the midst of his undoing, ‘Taking Care of Business’ shined as a soul-wrenching song that would tear your heart out if mp3’s had the physical capacity to reach into one’s ribcage.

The video for said song is no-less gut-wrenching. Beautifully filmed, coming off like those karaoke scenes from that ‘Only God Forgives’ movie, Alex Cameron dances like he’s a stand-in for Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘True Lies’, only instead dressed in a Miami Vice extra outfit. His moves and vocal pain are so much, they cause him to stare down the barrell of a gun, and yet he keeps building and building, jerking his body like Ian Curtis in the throes of soul-crushing depression.

Seriously, one of the best songs to be released out of Sydney now has a clip that does it complete and arresting justice.

Top 10 Things That Happened in 2013

Okay, just to clarify, this isn’t a list about the best shit that happened in 2013 for music. Although most of it is about some of the really, really great shit that happened, some of it is about some of the bad shit that happened in 2013. That is to be expected, so chin up buddy, dry those tears, and think about the sunny day that Violent Soho brought out their sophomore record, and forget about the time that Miley fucked a teddy bear. 

10. Chapter Music and I Oh You Records (tied)

This has just been such a fantastic year for both these top-notch Aussie record labels. Albeit on opposite ends of the music spectrum, and drastically varying in age (Chapter celebrating their 21st Birthday this year, and I Oh You celebrating their 4th), they have both released some of the best tunes this year, and rightfully won their place in the music community. Chapter Music released a stunning 15 or so records this year alone, with records ranging from the ‘dole-wave’ world-conquerers Dick Diver and The Stevens, to the long-awaited debut album from Primitive Calculators and another new one from The Cannanes. Meanwhile, I Oh You was out there putting on tours for the likes of Earlwolf, Foals (DJ’s) and getting the one and only Neon Love together for a reunion show. If that wasn’t enough, I Oh You also put out another one of my favourite records of the year, Violent Soho’s ‘Hungry Ghost’, and Snakadaktal’s debut record. They also managed to be a bunch of cockteasers and put out tantalising singles for City Calm Down and DZ Deathrays. If these labels can keep the pressure, there’s no telling how 2014 will end up.

9. New Shit From Bands That Haven’t Released Shit In A While

Beware, I’m not talking about bands that reformed, or broke their hiatus. I’m talking about bands that have never broken up, but have been ‘illin on the fringes of musical society, just waiting to return to form with strident singles. The aforementioned DZ Deathrays, Straight Arrows, HTRK, The Avalanches, Royal Headache, Seekae-just a few of the bands that blew us away with stand alone releases that said, “Fuck you, we’ve still got it.” If you haven’t checked out any of these singles…do it, you unintelligible ape!

8. Shitty Albums That People Thought Would Be Way Better Than They Actually Were

Ooooh, the first hot topic! I’m not just talking about Daft Punk here, there were so many built up albums this year that fell flatter than an ad campaign for Vaginal Warts. Arctic Monkeys, Sebadoh, No Age…just a short list of albums I listened to that I wish I hadn’t had, so I could dedicate more time to wistfully thinking about making sweet love to Robert Pollard. But that’s not even scratching the surface of bands like Cloud Control, Cults, Weekend, Soft Metals, Obits and Franz Ferdinand. A lot of bands that I was expecting to deliver stunning results returned with meagre offerings that either cruised along on the strength of predecessors, or worse, fucking sucked.

7. Solo Projects

For me, the term ‘solo project’ is a bit of a dirty word. Most of the time, they’re warning stories for the over-eager frontmen and women. Just ask Johnny Borrell, Johnny Marr or Noel Gallagher…if your album isn’t awesome, you kind of lose all credibility,and come off looking like a wanker. But luckily, there was a whole swag of Australian artists that went out on their own and wandered out as deadset legends. Nathan Roche, Angie, Kirin J Callinan, Geoffrey O’Connor, and Alex Cameron are just a couple names that released some stellar records this year that only get better with repeat listens. No point getting too much into it, just go fucking listen to them yourself. Trust me, these records are more on the Bob Dylan side of the solo spectrum, in terms of awesomeness.

6. Boutique Festivals

In a year where shit is getting fucked up ALL over the place for major music festivals, whether it be the gargantuan amount of drug related arrests, Blur cancelling on Big Day Out, or AJ Maddah telling people that their favourite bands suck tremendous amounts of horseshit, major festivals are becoming more and more fucked. I can’t tell you how pissed I was when I missed the chance to see Massive Attack, Superchunk, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Neutral Milk Hotel all in the same place for Harvest festival, only to see it collapse before my very eyes. And lets not even touch on hip-hop festivals this year, with Rap City, Supafest, Movement all being cancelled.

However, with the absence of ya boiz 50 Cent and T.I, boutique festivals have continually outshone their counterparts. The ‘original’ boutique festival, Laneway, has gone international, and their 2013 edition was fucking awesome. Japandroids, Divine Fits and POND all left massive dents in my brain, right were the pleasure centre is located. Other festivals like OutsideIn, Strawberry Fields and the upcoming, sold-out Secret Garden festival (which frankly has the most amazing lineup I’ve ever seen) continue to dominate. Oh, and Sound Summit was one of the most pleasurable and unique experiences of my entire life, a smorgasbord of musical delights that will probably never be collected in the same period again. Fuck me, if boutique festivals become a thing, how the fuck will yadda yadda capitalism, Soundwave, Nova 969, joke, haha.

5. Reformations-the fucking shit and the not-so-shit

Firstly, let’s talk about Black Flag. Maaaaan, did they fuck that one up. One of the all time greatest punk bands became a petty squablling bitch fit of the highest order, and at the end of it all, once-stoked fans where left with an album called ‘What The…’, which compromised of a bunch of piss-take ‘punk’ songs and an album cover that looked like ClipArt threw up. They fucking fired Ron Reyes onstage! Black Flag aside, bands that also wanted money to buy that brand-new toaster and reformed included Boyzone, The Backstreet Boys and Girls vs. Boys. It reads like a list of who-gives-a-shit.

However, on the plus-side, Jurassic 5, Philadelphia Grand Jury, and Powder Monkeys all put aside differences and got stuck into some gigs. And by some miracle, the mother fucking Replacements got together again! What! That’s amazing! I nearly blew a load when I heard that!

4. Electronic Music???

Electronic music has had a confusing year in 2013. On the one hand, there has been some absolutely froth-worthy local shit that has gotten tails wagging and genitals exploding. Touch Sensitive, Wave Racer, Cosmo’s Midnight and Hayden James have had stellar years, and underrated labels like Future Classic, Silo Arts, and Yes, Please have all shot to national attention, like synth induced erections. And let’s not even bother to touch on Flume-that guy gets enough deserved praise.

But in terms of mainstream music, the result has been mixed like a cocktail served by a squirrel with Parkinsons. Of course, Disclosure released that pretty killer album. But the likes of hardstyle trap from the likes of Baauer and DJ Snake, and the legions of mindless DJ’s that trample our radio waves that release forgettable single after another dilutes a lot of the mainstream appeal of electronic music. Not even new albums from Jon Hopkins, and Boards of Canada, or the embracing of the genre from indie rock icons like Arcade Fire and David Bowie, could distract from the likes of Knife Party destroying decent music. Although it is undeniable that electronica had a killer year on the local front, its better to forget that other shit happened outside of our shores.

3. Debuts

Face it, a lot of debuts came out in 2013, and they all rock me better than a hurricane. International props to the likes of Savages, FIDLAR, Eagulls, HAIM, Jackson Scott, SQURL, HUNTERS and Atoms For Peace. But that doesn’t even come close to the amount of talent that pooped out shining nuggets of debut gold this year in Australia. TV Colours, Gooch Palms, Bad//Dreems, Food Court, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Zeahorse, Bloods…the list goes on…and on….and on. Batpiss, Clowns, Amateur Drunks, Reckless Vagina! Unity Floors, Day Ravies, The Stevens, SMILE! These are just a couple of my favourites, but you get the idea. There was a fuckload of bands that popped their cherry and the collective music community lost their shit. Blood was everywhere.

2. Miley Cyrus and the Death of the Child Star

Look, I actually don’t hate Miley Cyrus. I think her music sucks, her taste is awful, she acts and sounds like a spoiled brat and is a living cumstain, but she’s actually the perfect pop star that this generation needs. She’s like The Dark Knight of shitty, over-produced music. And good for her for completely shaking off the goodie Hannah Montana image.

But therein lies my point. The Jonas Brothers broke up this year, the Biebs has conveniently spray-painted, prostituted and retired (?) his way into a ‘bad boy’ image, and we all saw Miley nearly fuck Robin Thicke onstage at the VMA’s. Right now, there isn’t really a glistening child-star to sell t-shirts. Even Lorde, the youngest pop star of the moment is more grown up than the majority of twenty year old hipsters that infect her concerts just to say they saw ‘Royals’. She hung out with fucking David Bowie and Tilda Swinton for her birthday party!

Regardless, 2013 saw the Death of the Child Star, a feat that should both cause us to all be thankful, and astonished.

1. Local Garage Rock Hit a Fucking Peak

Garage rock, my favourite genre, has well and truly hit its peak at the moment, and shows no signs of declining. Seriously, attend any bar in any capital city in Australia, and there’s a 1-in-3 chance that there’s a garage rock band giving it 100% and blowing minds.

Not only is the live scene of garage rock well and truly at a high point, but the albums these bands are making are astoundingly good. Palms and The Gooch Palms released underdog debuts that blew everything out of the fucking water like a land mine in a kiddy pool. TV Colours took the usual formula and added dashing synths and samples to create a tale of fucked-up-ness that’ll have you massacring penguins just to get your hands on some more. And Bad//Dreems single handedly resurrected the sound that was left behind where GOD put it.

Outside of debuts, garage bands that have already established themselves continued to push shit further into the realm of amazeballs. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Witch Hats, Ooga Boogas and fuckloads of others continued to do what they do best-ensure that we, the shitstains of musical society, are enjoying their output more than humanly possible.

As if that isn’t enough, there’s new garage bands springing up all over the place, and the sound still hasn’t been tired out. Bands like Doctopus, The Living Eyes, Tiny Migrants and Adults are just a very small handful of the concoction of rock n roll music that is permeating our ears on a local level. If you haven’t done so, check out all of these bands and more.

We are living in a renaissance of the greatest form of amatuer music in all its forms, and the least you can do is contribute in some small way. 2013 was one of the best years for Australian music, garage and rock n roll specifically, because finally, all the years of hard work that these bands have done has started to pay off exponentially in fantastic records and performances. Get along to a show, buy a record, and ensure that 2014 means that local music is better than the last shitstain of a year.

Video(s): The Creeping Ivies + Popstrangers + Alex Cameron + Buzz Kull + Touch Sensitive/Ego + Wave Racer

I don’t know about you, but the way I like to spend MY Friday nights is by watching music video after music video before falling into a tear-stained, square-eyed coma for up to twelve hours. Sounds pretty fun right? Well, now you can join in with me as I show off a bunch of music videos that are pretty great. The theme for this segment is ‘awesome’, and there’s the stream of thought that goes from rock n roll party soundtrack, down to the more introspective, and back up to some dastardly thumpers.

The Creeping Ivies-What Would Joey Ramone Do?

The Creeping Ivies are from Scotland, which is why its so damn weird that they sound like an inverted version of The Gooch Palms. Stand up snare? Check! Addictive, amateur guitar? Check! Snarled, simple and badass lyrics? Check, check, check!

Their brand of garage punk is a well-worn path, but The Creeping Ivies do it so damn well, and with such passion, that its better to let it go, and enjoy the flogging of brain cells and encapsulation of awesome that is The Creeping Ivies.

For the film clip, a bunch of old timers in exasperation get all up in arms at the question every punk has asked themselves: WWJRD. Would Joey Ramone piss on that business man minding his own business in the street below? Would Joey Ramone eat four-week old garlic bread? Would Joey Ramone go that Creeping Ivies show at [insert decrepit junkie shit-hole of a punk rock bar here]? Of course he would, he’s Joey fucking Ramone, and you should dare to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest frontmen in history.

Popstrangers-Rats in the Palm Trees

The video for Popstrangers latest single has arrived, and as expected its as flourishing and hazy as their music. Popstrangers became well-known for their unique brand of fuzz that isn’t quite surf, isn’t quite noise and isn’t dream-pop. Instead, they threw out the rule book and combined all that shit for some gloriously good times. Their track ‘Rats in the Palm Trees’ is more catchy than a case of crabs at a Venereal Disease Convention. As for the clip, you can expect some gorgeous shots that you probably won’t be able to pull your eye away from. In fact, you’ll probably get straight up immersed. Yeah, I went there.

Alex Cameron-Happy Ending

Alex Cameron’s ‘Jumping the Shark’ is the Album of the Week, and hot on the heels of the release comes the video for one of the eight amazing songs on that album. Like the song itself, the video is orgasmically 80’s. Basically, if Kevin Bacon from Footloose became a nervous-wreck, he’d probably turn into the character portrayed in the ‘Happy Ending’ clip. But, true to its title, there’s a happy ending for the protagonist after all, as he shuffles his way to purple-tinted, smoky ecstasy.

Buzz Kull-Bedroom Highs

Finally, someone that agrees with me that sunshine is for freaks! The haphazard, Frankenstein-monster of New Order x The Cure that is Buzz Kull’s new video clip shows a distorted view of what will happen if you lay on a tanning bed for too long. A wheel of colour constantly flickering in the video’s spectrum, and drunken double-images will fuck with the viewer to no end. If this was the latest video clip for Kings of Leon or something, it’d be the final nail in the coffin. But for a doomy, melancholic track from a band at the forefront of the new noise scene, (graduates include The KVB and The Soft Moon) well, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Touch Sensitive & Ego-#VJuke

Look, I’m not even 100% sure what’s going on here, but I’ll try to translate to the best of my ability. I think  Touch Sensitive (‘Pizza Guy’) and the visual artist Ego teamed up to create a track based off of submissions from Instagram, all sourced from the hashtag #VJuke. Truly, a sign of our times. But all doubters must be cast aside, as this video is a testament of what can be created once a moustachioed wonder tells you to do it. The product in question is the extremely groovy and danceable ‘#VJuke’, a track that buzzes like a bee on cocaine. As for the video, well, its an audio-visual sensory experience. Who knew that a bunch of morphing, multi-coloured shapes could be so transfixing?

Wave Racer-Rock U Tonite

Finally, one of the most promising up and comers on the Australian dance music scene, its Wave Racer’s official clip for ‘Rock U Tonite’. A ball-busting, hip-thrusting, nail-biter of a track if you’ve ever heard one, ‘Rock U Tonite’ throws its weight around to an extraordinary degree. Basically, you can’t help but dance to this track. And when combined with the disturbing acid-dream regurgitation that is the video clip, the song has already become a staple in your mind. Those trickling beats combined with the pulsating, vibrant nightmare of a video? Too fucking good.

Album Review: Alex Cameron-Jumping the Shark

There are heaps of ways I could introduce Alex Cameron’s debut album. One way would be to go on and on and on about his lucrative career as the frontman for electronic project Seekae. Another way would be to describe what the term, and subsequent album title, ‘Jumping the Shark’ means (idiom meaning that a project’s creative ideas are getting desperate for attention, derived from an episode from Happy Days when Fonzi literally jumps over a shark on waterskis). Even another way would be to talk about the fucking amazing website that Cameron set up for the project! Viagra ads and creepy face close-ups have never looked so appealing. But I feel as though the best representation for my introduction would be to talk about how this record was apparently rejected by ‘at least eight’ record labels. Taking even the quickest of listens to this album, that will come as a shock and a half to anyone who’s ever applied to the School of Good Tunes.

Reading through the website, you’d be forgiven for thinking Alex Cameron’s shambolic musings on the state of the Internet, e-mail and free downloads would at least filter into the album a little bit. Instead, the music listening public are left with a fucking fantastic album that manages to wallow in the mire and shine like the brightest fucking star in the galaxy.

The songs of ‘Jumping the Shark’ are a weird brand of electro-pop, jumping around with a strange energy, but held back from being Passion Pit-levels of exuberant by Alex Cameron’s voice. And what a fucking voice that is! It takes me by complete surprise that the guy held back this fucking gem from Seekae until just recently. His voice is hopeful, but there’s also a level of experience and wisdom in there that warns to shy away from being too optimistic. Think I’m reading into this too much? Well, fuck you, because the lyrics back me up in my hypothesis, such as in ‘She’s Mine’, when Cameron introduces the song with ‘Lovers having short careers, I wonder if they are but fears, of quickly gaining way too much, but slowly, slowly losing touch’. Put this in Cameron’s seductive, instructional tones and add a glittery synth line, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the best things you’ve heard all year.

‘She’s Mine’ is just the tip of the ice berg. Opener ‘The Comeback’ is the ultimate new-wave Rocky theme, even holding a chorus of ‘We’re gonna get my show back!’ over triumphant chords. ‘Real Bad Lookin’ holds a demented merry-go-round rhythm, whilst Cameron waxes poetic about ugliness, both on the inside and outside. And ‘Take Care of Business’ hits rock bottom, long pauses and subtle electronica, whilst Cameron basically cries out ‘she’s…takin’ care of business’ in the most heartbreaking inflection you’ve ever heard.

Alex Cameron’s debut effort ‘Jumping the Shark’ is memorable like watching dinosaur’s duel to the death. You can’t peel your eyes away from such a rare sight, and every fibre of your body is telling you that this is something that probably won’t occur ever again. ‘Jumping the Shark’ feels like a spiritual sequel to Rowland S Howard’s ‘Pop Crimes’, depressed but addictive music that feels like pop but could never be played on Top 40 radio.

‘Jumping the Shark’ is a hell of a fucking album, and its too majestic to go unnoticed. I’m actually going to be upset if this record doesn’t go multi-double-super-ultra platinum. Its too good to not be noticed by, at the least, the King of Nicaragua, if that position exists. However, because Alex Cameron is a super nice guy, for an undisclosed, limited amount of time, you can grab the album for free off his awesome, awesome website (I can’t get over how fucking great this website is). Get on it, because only Alex Cameron knows when the Alex Cameron record will become not-free!

Video: Cull-World Inside Your Head

Wow, just wow. I feel like this song should be soundtracking the world’s most inspirational video or something. It is seriously beautiful. If Notebook-era Ryan Gosling was a song, he would be this song. That’s my way of saying that this song is really, really dreamy. Or at least, it starts that way, then builds into a noisy, My Bloody Valentine-esque Holocaust fuzz that you can’t help but froth over. Froth till you drop, man, froth till you drop. As I’m typing this, I’m actually going into spasms. 90% of me wants to say its the song, but a small 10% lays blame to that rabid monkey that bit me. Whatever, Cull rules, infected primates drool.