The Kinks' 1969 track "Australia" describes the country as an idyllic wonderland of carefree jubliance and boundless opportunity, where "no one hesitates at life," and all citizens don a "perpetual smile." The faux-tourism pitch advocates sailing on over to where there's "no class distinctions" and "no drug-addictions," because, the Kinks implicitly suggest, such afflictions were beleaguering the band's English homeland at the time. It's a beautiful song: epic at over six minutes, and based around a blissful instrumental break that practically places listeners on that dreamy voyage. But as the Kinks' prettiest songs often were, it's darkly facetious. "Australia" is an ode of escapist fantasy and underclass longing for a Shangri-La that's largely imaginary.
Today, though, Australia's impeccable rock output and the support of its national arts programs are legitimate reasons for Americans to idealize and wax romantic about the country. Scrappy garage great Eddy Current Suppression Ring takes home cash awards from national organizations, for example, and upstart artists like Kirin J. Callinan secure tour funds from the Australian Arts Council — but, of course, no comparable institutions for lower-profile rock bands exist in the United States. It's enough to inspire yet more wistful tribute songs to the place — and nowadays, the Kinks' kind of sarcasm would be totally uncalled-for.
Callinan, in particular, brings such comparisons to mind. He opens for New Zealand's Connan Mockasin at The Independent on Thursday, May 15. Embracism, Callinan's 2013 debut album, is the work of a rigorous and adaptive songwriter. It contains buoyant electronic arrangements with lavish studio treatment alongside sparse balladry and clamorous industrial exercises, but Embracism is unified by compelling vocal acrobatics and clever lyricism. Whether crooning out a story of infidelity on the saccharine "Victoria M.," or snarling the title track's ominous ruminations about masculinity in the digital era, Callinan is a bold stylist. Embracism can be jarringly severe, but Callinan tempers it with some deft cheekiness as well. When he proclaims, "I cry when I listen to Springsteen," on "Come on USA," it evokes the Kinks' transcontinental irony anew.
Permanent Ruin's Rich Gutierrez is an arresting performer, and, at least for this writer, watching his intensely physical and uptempo drumming shatters my typically collected and analytical composure. To rationalize it, I begin to estimate the beats-per-minute of Permanent Ruin songs, then consider Gutierrez's subdivisions of rhythmic meter — but it's just so fast that everything swirls into a senseless melee of hardcore devastation! A mutation could explain his optimized wrist tendons, but my mind is rattling, and I can't go on. As for Permanent Ruin overall, the local foursome is a brick-wall hardcore unit with noisy segues and savage vocals that urges listeners to check their shit, or back their shit up, or cut their shit out, with charisma and gusto. Permanent Ruin plays on Sunday, May 18*, at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, with Australian grindcore band Internal Rot and locals Scalped.
* [Editor's Note: Unfortunately Permanent Ruin is no longer scheduled to play this Sunday at 1-2-3-4 Go!; they have been replaced on the bill by Iron Lung and Deathgrave.]