Given the general contemptibility of the current generation of singer/songwriters, with their coy mix of warm water and open wounds, I’ll take Joel Gibb of Toronto’s Hidden Cameras any day. The clever hyper-sexuality of his lyrics mixed with the fife and glockenspiel of his glad rag arrangements makes for a fey giddiness that’s altogether too rare these days. Gibb’s wry looks at love, lovers and petty crime make for a compelling listen when compared to the funereal dirges and soul baring sympathy poems of his contemporaries.
Mississauga Goddam, the second release from The Hidden Cameras, opens with “Doot Doot Ploot” and its charming refrain of, among other things, “you’ve been pulling your Pol Pot for long enough.” But unlike the last time someone mentioned Cambodia’s most famous butcher in song, in this instance the whole affair is submerged in a veritable sea of good nature. The earthy strings and Gibb’s Morrissey-ish warble evoke a Brueghelian spirit complete with unwashed types dancing in the flower of heathenism. And don’t get me started on the harp as it’s not just for drawing rooms anymore. A similar belt of lively, vibrant emotion propels “Fear is On” to similar heights. It’s easy to imagine some sort of gay highlander slapping along on his knee to its hearty, pastoral rhythms. The romanticized, yet almost medieval, innuendo of “That’s When the Ceremony Starts” feels right at home with its plucked string trills providing a wink and a nod. The fun continues on “I Believe in the Good of Life” and on the highly pleasing pop of “The Union of Wine”.
The B-side tracks just get weirder. On “Music is My Boyfriend” Gibb fills his mug full of Vaseline and scrubs up the underwear. The sheer repetition of “Bboy” and “I Want Another Enema” are certainly capable of wearing down a casual listener, but the initiated will certainly enjoy the semi-ridiculous lyrics about exit wounds and Nair addiction. Regardless of whether or not it’s your cup of tea, it’s all in good fun. For those of you who can’t help cringing, there’s a payoff for you, too. The title track and closer “Mississauga Goddam” is a thoughtful contemplation of growing up like many of us did, in a town disenchanted with its own supermarkets and power lines. Gibb writes from a place down deep inside that holds out hope for an escape from drudgery for all the old faces. He’s found singing about urine and asking for your nude photos. Don’t begrudge him that.