Well, here’s a surprising grower. Upon first listen, I was ready to hate the Hidden Cameras’ Awoo as much as I loathed Danielson’s Ships, and for much the same reason. Lead singer Joel Gibb’s voice isn’t exactly naturally pleasant, and the band’s music steers uncomfortably close to being annoyingly juvenile. But after some acclimation, there’s substance under that sometimes too sickly sweet silliness.
Another surprise was that the band hails from Canada, although being on Arts & Crafts should have given that away. I would’ve pegged Gibb for a Kiwi or Aussie. His voice is reminiscent of New Zealander Chris Knox’s, and the band has the overall jaunty pop-punk feel of Pacific Rimmers the Tall Dwarfs or the Go-Betweens. Other sounds in the mix include a bit of Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the rolling rhythm and strings of opener “Death of a Tune” and some of Bowie’s kooky weirdness on “Learning the Lie.”
Pretty chamber pop also abounds on Awoo. There’s a lot of shiny, happy xylophone and swirling strings on songs like “For Fun” and “Hump from Bending.” The out and proud of it Gibb reconfirms his anti-establishment stance on the title track, praising “the moment I was taught to resist the education.” “Lollipop” is a frenetically fast little oddity on which Gibb trills and warbles. And “Heji” consists of nothing more than an industrial clanging beat, more violins and Gibb grunting.
As odd as all this sounds, the album is more polished and accessible than the band’s previous work and other childlike plinky pop like Danielson. Gibb should be interesting to keep tabs on as he continues to mature.
“Death of a Tune” MP3: http://www.thehiddencameras.com/html/death.asx