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The Hidden Cameras | The Smell Of Our Own (Rough Trade)
A stranger Polyphonic Spree? A gayer Belle & Sebastian? How could this not be the album of the year? Let me introduce you: The Hidden Cameras are a 15-piece "gay church" band. Their live performances have taken place in an Elderly Jewish People's home and a porn theatre and commonly involve semi-naked (male) dancers in masks. They are the only Canadian signings to Rough Trade in its 25-year history. So nothing to write home about there then. Almost everything about this band - from the album's almost malleably dirty title and bum-covered cover to the way Joel Gibb sings "out" - is unique and utterly fascinating. Admittedly, the band's chugging, shambolic sound has been done before by the likes of Talking Heads, the Magnetic Fields, the Proclaimers and the Aislers Set but the band's energy and Gibb's flustered, desperation-fuelled vocals make any such comparisons all but obsolete. They are best demonstrated on the first single, Ban Marriage (a dizzying cross between Hey Mickey and American Pie), whilst Boys of Melody even has the ring of Elvis Costello about it. The lyrical content is also... interesting: Ban Marriage ("stayed up too late... fingering foreign dirty holes in the dark") and closing track The Man that I am with my Man (refrain: "solid is the rock of my man") are examples of what Rough Trade deems "fearlessly explicit but remarkably touching examinations of homosexuality". I can't even imagine what the elderly Jewish people made of it all.

Chris Horkan
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003