Toronto
2 min

Soft pop hard

And dirty angel wings

HIDDEN CAMERAS. Smell this. Credit: Xtra files

The Hidden Cameras may be the hottest band in Canada right now. Their demo recording, Ecce Homo, and their already legendarily riotous live shows have brought them to the attention of the hipsters in Toronto, both within and without the gay community.



On their first major label album (the band has signed to British label Rough Trade, who’ll distribute the CD everywhere but in Canada), the band, or collective, attempts to document what all the excitement is about, and doesn’t really succeed.



The band’s live shows, performed mostly in churches and chapels, have been bacchanalian gatherings, where the 10-piece or more band, along with virtually naked go-go boys, performs their “gay folk church music” in celebration of gay love and, especially, gay sex. The shows combine the sexual raunchiness of the songs’ lyrics with the sounds of a church-like choir and the music of organ and strings to produce a wildly entertaining and contradictory mix.



But the album doesn’t really manage to capture that essence. The raunchiness is certainly there. Lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Joel Gibb loves to sing about the physical charms of the male body, the sexiness of sweat, odour, piss and blood, the joys of unrestrained carnality. As he sings, “There is splendour in the harshness of bum.”



The opening track, “Golden Streams,” leaves little doubt about where we’re going. But what comes across as celebratory live, sounds almost amateurish on record. Gibb’s passion is diffused, leaving the weaknesses in his voice more evident, and what is cheerful and tuneful kitschiness in the music live, sounds much cheesier on the album.



It’s the energy that’s been primarily lost. The music comes across as a sort of homosexually explicit soft rock, pleasant to listen to, but undemanding. A little grit and some more developed melodic hooks would go a long way towards capturing some of the excitement of a live Hidden Cameras show.



Having said that, when things come together, as they do on several tracks, it’s easier to understand the “next big thing” label. “Breathe On It” has the tune and the hooks, and enough of a propulsive beat to drive the catchy little song along. “Ban Marriage” manages to successfully combine the church choir vocals with Gibb’s unvarnished voice. But the final track, “The Man That I Am With My Man,” works the best. The hummable melody, the singalong chorus, the violin, cello and organ, manage to produce a lovely and memorable ballad about watersports, blood play and gay love.



Hopefully, on the next album, the Cameras can find a way to bring the full impact of their live energy and passion to their recordings.



THE SMELL OF OUR OWN.

Hidden Cameras.

Evil Evil. $19.99.