The Joup Friday Album: The Callas – Half Kiss Half Pain

CallasI’m going to do something different this week. Normally the idea behind the Joup Friday Album is to post an entire album that the you can click to, hit play on and then go about your business preparing for your weekend. You know, sync the phone or laptop to the stereo, turn it up and then move around your house; start prepping the night’s dinner or sit and work on some writing while the sounds that Joup’s wonderful contributors have chosen usher in the potential inherent in your two days of freedom. It’s a nice way to start the brief respite from work, having someone curate a new experience and personally I hold it pretty holy. That said, this week I am not going to post an entire album. I’ve been thinking about this for a while – the fact that it has become harder and harder to find ‘full albums’ on youtube and the fact that our WordPress theme fights like a little bitch when we try to embed from spotify or bandcamp. So maybe this is all just an excuse to break protocol. Or maybe it’s just that I am excited as hell about this new album by The Callas.

A couple of years ago I stumbled across Am I Vertical, the first album Jim Sclavunos of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, The Cramps, etc. produced for the Indie band from Greece who had previously DIY’d themselves into underground endearment – so I’m told. As I said, I found them with Am I Vertical, so there’s some catch-up I still have to do.

Get with it, right? Well, Half Kiss Half Pain was a good reminder.

Compare “Lustlands” – the opening track of Am I Vertical – to the opener from Half Kiss Half Pain:


Comparing these two album openers brings to my mind a Grant Morrison quote from an interview regarding the final pages of his three-volume counter culture masterpiece The Invisibles. I’m not going to be able to figure out where the exact quote is in my mountain of Morrison-related propaganda, so I can’t do this verbatim, but essentially the author makes the point that in this day and age, where the counter culture has been co-opted and neutered by conglomerates, in order to truly make a counter-cultural impact one must drop the ‘punk rock’ aesthetic; start wearing suits, get jobs at mega-corporations and move through their ranks, subverting them from the inside out. Wolves in sheep clothing; stop announcing your intentions to subvert the system visually and blend in. You’ll do more damage that way. And that’s what The Callas appear to be doing with this opening track – lulling us into a nice place, a soft place, a … well, a bloody place, from which all kinds of awesome displays of their intention to act as artists first and musicians second – NOT a knock – draw us deeper and deeper into the grooves of Half Kiss Half Pain.


“Sad Erection”. Again, a track that starts nice but has teeth – no pun intended. A comparison to Grinderman is perhaps low-hanging fruit considering Sclavunos’s involvement here, but it is also appropriate. Someone once wrote about the second Grinderman record – “This is the sound of four men growing old disgracefully” and I’ve always rather liked that impression of the Bad Seeds-culled offshoot Mr. Cave used to kick in a few teeth and break a couple of windows – all without ever messing up his custom tailored suit or those beautiful shoes he often wears. And I think that’s something that Mr. Sclavunos has helped steer Lakis and Aris Iwnas, the brothers at the heart of The Callas. “Sad Erection” gives way to “Cut”, which I fancy sounds a bit like The Hives. The album churns back and forth from here, the nicer and uglier parts becoming increasingly fused instead of the more diametric beginnings that put the listener at such a pleasurable disadvantage early on. Perhaps the best example I can give of this is the album centerpiece – in my opinion – “Could You?”, which creates and sustains such a feeling of tension and unease that by the time it breaks into classic, dingy post-punk raucousness we’re so grateful for relief that such a refined approach to punching us in the face is appreciated if for no other reason than it allows us to breathe once more.

But not for long.


The Callas’s Half Kiss Half Pain is like a strange, violent dream. It ebbs in peacefully, reflectively, and then takes some harrowing turns. It brings you deep into a barbed wire psychosis and then flips it over on its back and pours alcohol all over it. And you know, I don’t really ever remember my dreams but I’ve remembered every track on this record since the first time I hit play a little under a month ago.

Now, go buy it and support an awesome independent band!

Tag Tommy!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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