The Hidden Cameras

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Awoo Review

by James Christopher Monger

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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