Brothers Lakis and Aris lonas started The Callas in Athens, Greece back in 2005. Both filmmakers and musicians, the brothers lonas took a more dissonant and theatrical approach to their music by taking inspiration from both Sonic Youth and The Fall. The Callas, who also feature Chrysanthi Tsoukala (guitar, vocals) and Marilena Petridou (Drums) have recently released their newest opus(via Inner Ear Records), the noisy and jangly Half Kiss Half Pain. Produced by Bad Seeds and Grinderman drummer Jim Sclavunos, Half Kiss Half Pain is a mix of art rock pomposity and post-punk jaggedness that never loses steam from throughout its 10 explosive tracks.
“It’s Sunday Morning” is equal parts menace and sunshine, with spoken word passages in the verses while the choruses soar with boy/girl harmonies. Imagine the Pixies mixing it up with Sebadoh and you might have an idea of what’s happening here. Besides having one of the best song titles in recent memory, “Sad Erection” is just a plain fun song. There’s a boozy blues quality to it that begs for repeated listening. “Cut” has some serious punk/garage rock grittiness to it with touches of Sonic Youth and Ty Segall both. “Half Kiss Half Pain” is pure brooding art rock, bringing to mind Faith No More in their finest form.
The Callas can easily slip into more ethereal and atmospheric modes as well, as in the mid-album crawl of “The Great Eastern”. The band shows careful consideration and patience in this slow burner that brings to mind more psychedelic fare from the late-60s. “Could You” opens quietly like some eerie lullaby before exploding into a barrage of guitar squall and pummeling bass lines. “La Jalousie” has a heavy dose of late-80s and early-90s indie rock noise that would’ve fit in somewhere between Throwing Muses and Concrete Blonde. “River. Drool. Ear. Rope.” closes the album out on a more gothic note that borrows as much from Bauhaus and PJ Harvey as it does Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores and murder ballads.
Half Kiss Half Pain is a well seasoned album that’s equally sweet and sour. It’s not background music. The Callas demand your attention, and they demand it now.