Release Date: Jan 21, 2014
Record label: Evil Evil
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Chamber Pop
The Hidden Cameras are not the same indie pop band they were five years ago. Since the release of Origin: Orphan in 2009, Toronto's eccentric orchestra - led by glittery shaman Joel Gibb - sounds younger, edgier, cooler. Appropriately, Age is Gibb's coming-of-age story, weaving a narrative that shows an experimental side of the frontman we've never seen before.
Over the past decade The Hidden Cameras, the project of singer/songwriter Joel Gibb, have quietly provided some of the most beautiful, inventive compositions and soundscapes in indie pop. Well, “quietly” refers to the fact that The Hidden Cameras haven’t reached the levels of popularity and acclaim as acts like Sufjan Stevens and Jens Lekman have. Indeed, it’s not like The Hidden Cameras haven’t tried to garner some attention; they play what Gibb once described as “gay church folk music” – a line that maybe returns to haunt him every time they’re mentioned in prose – their live shows have been known to feature a choir, a string section and dancers, and some of their best-known songs are about the joys of urination.
Toronto collective The Hidden Cameras came to our shores a decade ago, clad in nappies and balaclavas and peddling an upfront songbook of gay sex, religious criticism and indie-pop in-jokes. Joel Gibb’s sprawling, string-driven band were soon eclipsed internationally by their epic friends Arcade Fire, but they remain a distinctive voice. Sixth album ‘Age’ finds the group’s stirring chamber pop augmented by dense new wave and loving dub reggae that propel Gibb back to his youth, addressing S&M induction on ‘Skin & Leather’ and adolescent family pressure on the intense ‘Gay Goth Scene’.
From the outset, Hidden Cameras establish Age – their first record since 2009 – as a dark and serious affair. Leadoff "Skin and Leather" begins with Benedictine-monk-style chants. Blood follows. "Bread for Brat" builds tension with seesawing strings and flirts with catharsis via a temporarily sticky melody, yet ultimately holds off.
As the mouthpiece for Canadian troupe The Hidden Cameras, Joel Gibb has never been one to shy away from controversial subject matters. So when the video to lead single 'Gay Goth Scene' appeared in October of last year depicting the harrowing tale of a kid being bullied at school, it set the scene for what was to follow. AGE, their sixth album and first since 2009's Origin:Orphan comprises of the components that made The Hidden Cameras an alluring proposition from the outset.
The sixth studio album (and first outing in nearly five years) from sunny/sordid pop confectioner Joel Gibb and his merry band of rainbow revelers picks right up where 2009's transformative Origin: Orphan left off, moving the Canadian collective even further from the traditional, guitar-led chamber pop cadence of albums like Smell of Our Own and Mississauga Goddam, and into more club-ready electro-pop territory. One can only churn out so many deliriously catchy dishes of self-described "gay church folk music" before the taste buds begin to wilt, and the electrified (they've removed the pews and installed a dancefloor), modestly populated AGE serves as an efficient palate cleanser. The melodies are still as infectious as ever, but Gibb's latest incarnation of the group feels less like a band and more like a solo production, with much of its propulsion being delivered via sequencers.
For a band that flies under the self-proclaimed title of “gay church folk music,” Toronto’s The Hidden Cameras have earned that recognition with each step they've taken. At the intersection of gritty electro-clash and chamber music, it comes off as a creative but dull sixth album by the edgy music collective. Age is the first new work by the Hidden Cameras since 2009’s Origin: Orphan, an album that also blended musical genres but was more of a concessive work than Age.