Thursday, October 12, 2006
The Hidden Cameras--Awoo (2006)
Artist-The Hidden Cameras
Release Date-Sep 19, 2006
Label-Arts & Crafts
Genre/Style-Indie Pop/Chamber Pop
Biography-by Heather Phares A mix of queer politics, explicit sexuality, symphonic indie pop, and theatrical spectacle that borders on the religious, Toronto's the Hidden Cameras are the brainchild of singer/songwriter/guitarist Joel Gibb. The 2001 debut album Ecce Homo — a collection of four-track demos released on Gibb's own Evil Evil imprint — introduced a stripped-down version of the Hidden Cameras' witty, acoustic-based songwriting, which drew comparisons to the Magnetic Fields and Belle & Sebastian. Ecce Homo also caught the ear of Rough Trade, whose signing of Gibb made the Hidden Cameras the first Canadian artist on the label in its 25-year history. Meanwhile, the group's elaborate live performances, which include up to 30 go-go dancers, strippers, and musicians, as well as videos, projected lyrics, and heavy audience participation, won the group a widespread and devoted following in Canada. 2003's Rough Trade debut, The Smell of Our Own, reflected some of the group's more elaborate sound more so than Ecce Homo did and spread the Hidden Cameras' subversively catchy music further afield. In 2004, the band released their long-awaited follow-up, Mississauga Goddam, named for the Toronto suburb of Gibb's youth. Awoo, which presented a slightly tamer version of the Cameras' "gay church folk music," arrived in 2006.
The Onion (A.V. Club) Rating-91(Out 0f 100)
Drowned In Sound-80
Review-Once again, the amorous, shape-shifting, and occasionally naughty Toronto pop collective take the fey out of gay with an orchestra pit full of Brill Building cacophony that provides the kind of instantly gratifying retro-indie rock that has been their wine and cheese since 2003's Smell of Our Own. Joel Gibb and his army of Hidden Cameras don't stray far from the verse/chorus/verse/chorus audio font that made Mississauga Goddam such a summer road-trip necessity, but they do sound like more of a band now than a Gibb studio project. Awoo (like a coyote howl) is populated by pulse-quickening rockers like "Death of a Tune," the R.E.M.-inspired "Lollipop," and the anthemic "Learning the Lie"; chamber pop delicacies such as "The Waning Moon," "For Fun," and the gorgeous "Fee Fie"; and one seriously contagious title track. This is by far their most accessible and cohesive record yet, and despite a couple of well-meaning but ultimately derivative hiccups in its second half, Awoo should bring a much larger audience into the fold. Gibb's lyrics remain steeped in Freudian imagery, but his penchant for deviance — there are no songs about pee this time around — has surrendered to a broader and more poetic view of love, life, and the awful and beautiful things we do in the name of both. His initial branding of the band as the foremost purveyors of "gay church music" may be apt, but it's not as insular as it sounds, because with each new record he and his talented pit of vipers are building the kind a congregation that transcends how and with whom we fumble around in the back seat. Hallelujah!
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