Cheer leaders

Posted on 07 Sep 2006 at 5:06pm
By Gilbert Garcia – Pop Music Critic

Hidden Cameras find joy in simple pleasures of “‘gay church music’



ROPED INTO: Queer bandleader Joel Gibb, left, takes his Toronto orchestra on another flamboyant-pop ride.

The Hidden Cameras
“Awoo”
Arts & Crafts

A chamber-pop orchestra with a penchant for the occasional hootenanny, The Hidden Cameras has perfected the model of rock band as mini-symphony. The brainchild of queer Toronto songwriter Joel Gibb, the amorphous ensemble is at once simple yet meticulous, tragic yet celebratory, and profane yet beautiful. On their third full-length effort, “Awoo,” the band’s so-called “gay church music” finds its center feeling comfortable and effortless in its execution, while continuing to test pop sensibilities.

The irony of The Hidden Cameras’ sound is that arrangements are intricate but performed so cleanly and easily.

Though he may be a lyrical muscleman, Gibb’s songs almost exclusively stick to basic chord progressions. Tracks rarely stretch beyond two and three-chord riffs. And the thought of an intricate bridge is almost nowhere to be found.

Though Gibb’s lyrics can be smart and cleverly phrased, they’re often a stand-in for good rhythm. Songs like the title track, “Awoo,” the bluesy rocker “Learning to Lie” and the largely instrumental “Heji” are successful as much for their cadence as their content.

While previous Hidden Cameras albums have earned praise for their easy charm, they’ve also drawn attention for Gibb’s explicit references to queer sex-play. While it’s arguable that tracks with names like “Golden Streams” and “I Want Another Enema” were never meant for literal interpretations, “Awoo” largely sidesteps the hardcore tag. Though the occasional mysterious reference sneaks its way into tracks like “Lollypop” or “For Fun,” the songs on this album remain uniformly vanilla.

From understated piano and guitar numbers like “Fee Fie,” to full-blown ensemble tracks like “Hump for Bending,” The Hidden Cameras prove adept at providing simple pleasures. No mere delicate relics, these songs are meant to be sung, clapped and stomped along to. Few bands can mingle top-notch musicianship and glee as well as this Gibb and company. With this latest release, Hidden Cameras find a sweet spot worth your time and attention.



CHECK ‘EM OUT
You might have missed them for the past couple of years, but industrial rockers with a taste for genderbending have never been out of style. Following in the footsteps of Alice Cooper, KISS and Marilyn Manson, Denton’s The Undoing of David Wright flamboyantly exorcise their demons by wailing, pounding and screeching their way through their small catalog. Cross your fingers and hope for a bloody Saturday-night spectacle from this young trio.

Rubber Gloves, 411 E. Sycamore, Denton. Sept. 9 at 9 p.m. Free. 940-387-7781.

Much like Elvis, religious prophets and communist dictators, Dallas’ The Polyphonic Spree must to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Part pop-concert, part tent-revival, Spree shows have been known to bring even cynical attendees to rapture within minutes. Back onstage after a summer spent recording their forthcoming album, “The Fragile Army,” the gay-inclusive ensemble are trying out tunes from their latest EP, “Wait” which, in addition to a few fresh new tracks, also features impressive covers of Nirvana’s “Lithium” and The Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way.”

Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. Sept. 13. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $22. 214-824-9933.

Were he not a singer-songwriter, Sufjan Stevens might have made a great camp counselor. A cheery, inoffensive artist with a peculiar knack for storytelling, Stevens has turned idyllic paeans to obscure historical footnotes into intriguing looks at childhood, class and the evolving American culture. A devout Christian whose songs often touch on spiritual themes, the boyishly handsome songwriter has inspired blogospherians to wonder if Stevens is gay or bisexual.

So far, he remains mum on issues about same-sex marriage and shies away from questions about his personal life.

Currently promoting his newest album “The Avalanche,” Stevens brings his gentle brand of orchestral pop to Dallas for what’s sure to be a sweet toe-tapping time.

Lakewood Theater, 1825 Abrams Pkwy. Sept 13 at 7 p.m., $24. 214-373-8000.

Gilbert Garcia

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 8, 2006.

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