Woo for pop music!

The Hidden Cameras bring joy with their cheerful pop on ‘AWOO’

Emily Garber


With that one word, two loaded syllables sung with empirical might, Joel Gibb and his Hidden Cameras tell you everything you need to know about their third record.

The Hidden Cameras
LABEL: Arts and Crafts

The Hidden Cameras are a loose collective of roughly 13 members (though the number fluctuates) based in Toronto. Lead singer, writer and producer Joel Gibb uses his lyrics to explore gay love and sex with an explicitness that’s rare and fearless.

First and foremost: This is pop music. More than that, though, this is pop intertwined with and influenced by decades of folk and rock. It is meant as an uninhibited and contagious celebration for the band and its audience, through music that is in many ways simple and in others madly esoteric.

“AWOO” uses repetition in and between songs, and the hooks are sometimes bigger than the risks taken. But this general sameness is OK because this band, in every

conceivable angle of its art, from packaging to live shows and music videos, is fun. The Hidden Cameras are exciting, deceptively clever and playful in a way that forfeits pretension.

This is what “AWOO,” the record’s exuberant first single, captures perfectly. A few kinetic guitar chords birth jittery glockenspiels and a reserved bass line, building tension before the song’s jacked up chorus lets loose. It’s easily one of the Hidden Cameras’ best songs, and serves as a microcosm for the record in more ways than one.

Gibb chooses to reprise the song at the very end of the record as “The Waning mOOn,” (be sure not to miss the quote-unquote subtle capitalization in the title), this time reducing “AWOO’s” exact same progression with new lyrics, simpler melodies and deflated arrangements. Both songs creatively explore two distinct sides of this record, celebratory pop versus mid-tempo folk balladry, revealing how much this band can do with pop structure, even if they’re just rearranging a few chords.

In the past, music reviewers have given Gibb – understandably, though mistakenly – a hard time for the explicit sexual imagery in his lyrics. Songs like “I Want Another Enema” and “Golden Stream,” both off their first album “Mississauga Goddam,” were easily mistaken for songs about, well, enemas and golden showers. But Gibb expressed in an interview with online magazine In Music We Trust, “It’s not about gay sex, Ö it’s not about peeing on people, Ö it’s more about how people perceive their bodies.”

The Hidden Cameras with Born Ruffians and The Field
WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $10 adv/ $12 door, 21-plus, (612) 333-7499

“AWOO” employs the same unique take on sex, love and politics as the Camera’s past albums, only now it’s laced in language less likely to cause critics to giggle uncomfortably at the thought of watersports.

The album’s songs ebb and flow without falter, from “Death of a Tune’s” irresistible country-rock rhythm to “Lillipop’s” relentless staccato verses and “Heji’s” extraordinary use of group dynamics.

Whether you interpret the enemas and golden streams of the Camera’s past albums as juvenile or meaningful, the accessibility of “AWOO” offers a less-distracting peep hole that lets you into the mind of one of pop’s finest visionaries.