3 min

Music-making handmaidens

And the supreme Diana Ross, sort of

Credit: Xtra files

The Hidden cameras produce ambiguous Rorschach pop that makes their fans all warm and giddy. The music puts them in a “Care Bear Stare” trance. In photos, frontman Joel Gibb’s image is always distorted with paint or some sloppy handmade construction. On stage, the go-go dancers are always masked as Gibb hides in a forest of his music-making handmaidens. It’s all very Queen Amidala. The newest album, Mississauga Goddam, has handsome, grandiose arrangements for disjointed underdone lyrics. Melodious yet off-putting. Though it can’t be ignored that Gibb (songwriter/producer/visualist) is a major talent, this album just gives me a headache.

“Doot Doot Plot” starts with a witty the Great White North-type moose call and becomes an early Jane Siberry artsy lyric ditty. It’s carefree and builds as it goes. Sweeping strings and a divine swirling harp carry Gibb’s fey monotone pronouncement, “You’ve been pulling your Pol Pot for long enough/ I’ve been cooking in your pot for far too long.”

The tracks “Builds The Bone” and “We Oh We” couldn’t be more pretty. Gibb’s voice is sincere but those damn lyrics just leave me cold. “All I want is to be in his movie/ And not just be old worms of yesterday.” Don’t get me started on “I Want Another Enema.” It’s not the scatological content that bugs me, just the melody and Gibb repeatedly crying, “I want another enema, nema, nemaaaaaa.” He’s like that annoying crying beast-baby from David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

I quite liked the new version of “I Believe In The Good Of Life”(originally from the 2001 Ecce Homo indie release). It has a sense of humour and clever wordplay. The band is outstanding here. The song is so full and rich with rambunctious strings, rough boy guitars and steady tight drumming. The track has a “River Deep, Mountain High” magic about it. I also liked Gibb letting go and getting vocally rough and raunchy (very George Thorogood) on “Bboy,” though, overall, the piece is lacklustre.

The last track, “Mississauga Goddam,” is a tired suburbs bad/downtown good tune that sounds like Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All” slowed down and dressed up as “Silent Night.” “I’ll be wearing my disguise/ Until I lead my life from Mississauga Goddam,” sings Gibb, ever the reluctant sexy pop star in black-sheep’s clothing.

I couldn’t love The Concretes’ self-titled debut more. This Stockholm band (eight members and 12 honourary members) has delivered a glorious, raunchy, genius fireball of a record – the best so far this year. They have that Phil Spector “Wall Of Sound” with a rebellious dash of The Jesus And Mary Chain plus an artsy scoop of The Velvet Underground. Their new single “You Can’t Hurry Love” (no, not the Diana Ross And The Supremes song) is a heart-stopping two-minute pop tour de force. The guitars rumble, the organ is all-out beatnik and the horns are punchy as hands clap along. Then there’s the drums! The tambourines! It’s all too miraculous. And to top it off, lead singer Victoria Bergsman sings like a sleepy Ronette. She coos nympho kisses.

On “Diana Ross” Bergsman sings to a funny eccentric march. “We were listening to Diana Ross/ She sang her song about love hangover.” “Warm Night” is a waltzy wonder. It flutters with mandolins and violins that seem to cast their spell on the group harmonies (they ooh and ah repeatedly). Things get very perky and all out new-wavey on “Seems Fine.” The horns are frisky and ready as the synth goes to town with tart guitars and Bergsman’s pouty pleas.

It’s a lovelorn fest on “Lovin’ Kind” and “This One’s For You.” These two songs are melancholy beauts with a similar formation of piano and bittersweet trumpet solos that accompany Bergsman’s fragile voice, expressing her anguish and self- doubt. Producer Jari Haapalainen keeps all the emotions in check and the arrangements inspired. There’s never a false moment.The Concretes are terrific. I’m overwhelmed.

* The Hidden Cameras give a free outdoor concert at Harbourfront (235 Queens Quay W) at 9:30pm on Sat, Aug 28.


The Hidden Cameras.

Evil Evil. $17.99.


The Concretes.

Licking Fingers. $23.99.