The Hidden Cameras @ Bush Hall
When the Hidden Cameras first came over to these shores, they would often bring a number of party tricks with them; toy percussion instruments to hand out to the crowd and dancers in balaclavas while angry racoons would be set loose on the dance floor. Well, that last one isn’t true, but you could believe it of them, as there was nothing if not a wild abandon about those shows.
However a decade down the line, Joel Gibb (for he is to the Hidden Cameras as sugar is to candy floss) appears more worldly and, err…, ‘tucked in’. The sound on brand new record Age and its 2009 predecessor Origin: Orphan has seen a significant increase in the maturity of the songwriting, and generally has a greater ‘heft’ to it. Not in a ‘middle aged spread’ sense, more that as the hair lightens, the perspective becomes a little wiser as well as the orchestration getting a little denser.
Famously, and this was as much of a journalistic hook as the vaudevillian aspect of the shows when they first appeared, early songs dealt with golden showers, anonymous encounters in toilets and such like. Newer songs are still heavily influenced by the more promiscuous end of homosexual lifestyle, but come at it with an increasing sense of ennui and, some, regret.
Now, this is not to say that a 2014 Hidden Cameras show is all ashen frowns and Amish sartorial strictness, far from it. The current European franchise of Gibb’s backing band (pictured), including Jordan Hunt (of The Irrepressibles) and Verity Susman (once of Electrelane), are quite happy to bounce around for Underage and sling on the blindfolds for Smells Like Happiness, while two beetroot-faced members of the crowd are dragged from the front to lead the rest of us in the hear/speak/see-no-evil hand movements for Breathe On It.
Gibb, meanwhile, is captivating in his own right. There are plenty of vowel sounds within his tunes, a plethora of ooohs, ahhs and ayys, and he sells each one like a man that has just discovered that he is on fire; the ‘o’ of his mouth contorting, stretching and contracting in such a way as to suggest an invisible dentist has taken the opportunity to do a scale and polish.
There appears to be plenty of confidence in the new material, the show opening with the same three tunes as Age, and rightly so. For all that the sound and tone is shaded around the edges these days, Gibb’s ability to write enrapturing pop songs remains undiminished as he continues to add an admirable breadth to his canon