The Hidden Cameras
Mississauga Goddam

Rough Trade

earing their "gay church folk music" tag with pride, The Hidden Cameras have stretched out past mere novelty to produce a burgeoning body of work that is distinctive and intelligent. The group’s debut Rough Trade album, The Smell of Our Own, married music of faith, with all its baggage, with unambiguously homosexual lyrics and themes. Jimmy Somerville would have dug it. Will Young would probably have felt very uncomfortable with it, though one could be forgiven for guiltily reveling in some of its joyous numbers, when taken in context with its more harrowing and upsetting moments.

The Smell of Our Own’s rejection of the values and ideals about love and partnership in favour of guilt, shame, disease and all, is all but gone. Mississauga Goddam is that same man unabashedly revealing pride in his own ways and presenting it for all to see. So a song with a bleak title like "The Fear Is On" boasts a chorus like a clarion call, and a song with a salacious one, "I Want Another Enema", is delivered with its title lyric as the first and last thing heard and imbued with the palpable glee of a well-delivered punch-line.

Lyrically, Joel Gibb continues to describe and celebrate vignettes of homosexual life with the same language that a preacher or zealous theologue would use to condemn them. They're buried sufficiently to both reward close listening and to provide a level of distance should you be unable to warm to a couplet like “I kissed his ugly gangly greens / He swallowed my pee”, rapturously delivered over the marching, almost strutting pew-stomper "Music Is My Boyfriend".

Musically, the palette hasn't changed much from The Smell…: a single, simple acoustic guitar strum forms the basis, with the mood defined by the instruments layered over it. Gibb has proven to be a more creative writer and arranger than a musician, and milks the seemingly-limited template for all it’s worth. As such, the results don’t suffer from the debilitating sameness that many records of the same ilk might.

Take the implausibly-titled opener "Doot Doot Ploot" for example. It’s somehow equal parts Beach Boys, underachieving indie and ubiquitous radio jingle with its almost straightforwardly rock (well, except for the percussion) charge. At his most ornate, the string-and-bell canter of "That's When The Ceremony Starts" weds Gibb's most audacious and successful appropriation of religious themes for his own ends—the highlight easily being the rising post-chorus break that almost recalls 50s rock'n'roll choirs ushering in the next verse. By contrast, "We Oh We" is practically serene, with hymn-like repetitions of its title giving way to a beautiful violin-tinged lullaby. Its almost touching words of love act as a counter to some of the more explicit lyrical themes. It's made even prettier by its surroundings; the raucous "I Want Another Enema" and the slightly awkward, lumbering "B-Boy", the record's clumsiest chorus and closest thing to a weak point.

While in terms of standouts there's certainly nothing on here to match the rousing "Ban Marriage"—though "I Believe in the Good of Life" comes close despite its lack of quotable lines—and even if nothing can replicate the shock of hearing the opening of "Golden Streams" for the first time, the presence of a majority of upbeat, optimistic songs makes Mississauga Goddam a more straightforwardly uplifting listen. Definitely recommended.

Reviewed by: Edward Oculicz

Reviewed on: 2004-07-12

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