by Andrew Garrison
“AGE deconstructs my musical roots.” Joel Gibb, the frontman of the rotating group of musicians that make up The Hidden Cameras. The Hidden Cameras, whose sound Gibb once described as “Gay church folk music,” have been making music since 2001 and have been known for elaborate shows featuring go-go dancers, choirs and string sections released AGE this month. As mentioned above, AGE is aptly named in efforts to divulge into the roots that have influenced Gibb’s music over the years. However, I am not going to claim that I know nearly enough about Gibb’s journey to attest to what influences came in where. But what I am willing to say is that the album has a variance to signify that there is something there. The album changes tone and tempo rather frequently while still producing a unique sound that really does come across like “gay church folk”.
Leading off with “Skin and Leather” you do hear a sort of church sound, albeit an older, darker, gothic type one. The initial droning sounds like something you would hear in some clandestine, cult-like setting. It’s what I imagine the bad guy in The Da Vinci Code listening to. “Bread for Brat” employs the use of strings to elevate while simultaneously having a very eerie and foreboding sound to the track. Speaking of foreboding, “Doom” is absolutely loaded with the feeling. A heavy drumbeat and lofty choir-esque vocals drive this song at a surprisingly fast tempo. Even the lyrics of “Doom” convey some sense of futility, as one would imagine with a song rather tragic title. “Gay Goth Scene” is the first single off of AGE and is a song that is over ten years old, originally written when Gibb was living with his mother in Toronto. For something that allegedly started as an ironic joke, “Gay Goth Scene” is perhaps the strongest track in on the album. Gibb provides deep vocals, which are again being cut by a higher, choral background vocals, strings and aggressive, driving drums. The song runs nearly five minutes and towards the back end we get some sort of demonic, incoherent type of screeching, which, remarkably adds to the track. “Afterparty” slows things down a little big and almost brings a sort of tribal sound into the mix. The vocals are more drawn out and the percussions are nearly steel drum sounding at times. “Afterparty” rather simply and surprisingly lightly moves along at a steady pace throughout the six minute track. The keyboard line to lead off “Carpe Jugular” drops into a very futuristic sounding beat, creating something that we really haven’t heard at all thus far. While “Carpe Jugular” has Gibb’s signature darkness type of vibe to it, the beat and effects throughout the track sound almost euro-pop in the strangest, yet most satisfying way imaginable. “Ordinary Over You” is a rather short track, but has a very cool, cascading space odyssey sound to it over its two minute span. The last track, “Year of the Spawn” has a very, haunting, low key sound to it and deftly employs a steady drumbeat, subdued strings and a hint of horns to make a subtly complex sound.
Calling AGE simply “gay church folk” music, while an accurate description really does undersell the complexity and musicianship that went into this album. Although it might not be your style, and it certainly isn’t mine, the depths of each track are certainly something to marvel at. Each song has musical and emotional layers to it, making it something worth appreciating. While the general vibe of the album is a little darker than most would prefer, it is not off putting at all and Gibbs and Co. provide us with a truly unique listening experience.