The Hidden Cameras – Awoo

Although much has been made of the “out-and-proud” homoeroticism of Joel Gibb’s Canadian collective – The Hidden Cameras – behind all the risque gesticulation beats a heart of unpretentious pop ambition. So whilst numerous borderline-homophobic hacks hunting for an easy angle on Gibb’s muse have headed directly for the randy lyrical content of songs like “Golden Streams,” “The Man That I Am With My Man” and “I Want Another Enema,” many have missed the painfully obvious importance of The Hidden Cameras; Gibb and co. make fantastically soulful and tuneful pop records. Perhaps acknowledging such complicit distractions, this fourth Hidden Cameras long-player is rather more a – no-pun intended – straight-ahead affair.

Peeling back the sweeping Phil Spector-meets-Pet Sounds orchestral and vocal-choir embellishments that deliciously drenched the group’s last two albums 2003’s The Smell of Our Own and 2004’s Mississauga GoddamAwoo focuses on a re-prioritisation of the band’s aesthetic arrangements. First precedence now goes to Gibb’s towering nasal-twanging tones; one part Lee “The La’s” Mavers, one part pre-Monster Michael Stipe and one part Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys. Close behind comes lithe Sterling Morrison-meets-Johnny Marr guitar shapes and a small, subtly deployed, string section to underpin the melodic generosity pouring forth by the oil tanker load.

With less overt lyrical and instrumental accoutrements to divert lazier ears, Awoo finds The Hidden Cameras just getting on with delivering thirteen golden universal pop nuggets. Frankly, you could pick pretty much any song at random and be guaranteed either a gorgeous slab of jubilation or a bittersweet drop of beatification. From the Anglicized pop bliss of “Death of a Tune,” “Learning The Lie” and “For Fun,” via the apoplectic-gabbling of “Lollipop” (essentially R.E.M.’s “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” blurred into the Velvet Underground’s “We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together”) through to the baroque swooning of “Hump From Bending” and the honeyed-harmonies of “The Waning Moon,” Gibb’s gift for intelligent but gleeful musical-hooks is self-evident. His knack for sad-eyed but uplifting tenderness is also clearly palpable, with the likes of “She’s Gone” echoing Morrissey at his least emotionally-guarded and the swooning “Fee Fie” oozing Scott Walker-like string-soaked pathos.

For all the positive comparisons with the great and good of musical history – including indeed The Hidden Cameras back catalogue – the defining and driving essence of Awoo comes from a very astute and imaginative place indeed; Joel Gibb�s own head. And right now, that’s a great place to visit, regardless of your inbuilt sonic or sexual persuasions.