Stephin Merritt struck first with the amazing bands: the 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, the Gothic Archies, and, of course, the jewel of his musical empire crown: The Magnetic Fields. The Magnetic Fields released the quintessential love song collection called 69 Love Songs (69 songs over 3 discs). Merritt set a high bar for gay pop rock, but I think we found the new prince to the empire: Joel Gibb.
Gibb is the leader of the Canadian pop group called The Hidden Cameras. Last April, the band released their first album as a full band (their first release, Ecce Homo, was just Joel and his four-track machine), called “The Smell of Our Own,” on Rough Trade Records.
Where Stephin wrote love songs about both boys and girls, Joel writes about love and sex with guys. Not just sex with boys, but S&M with boys and other things.
The cover has a warning label about “sexual language,” but the lyrics are not why I love these songs. The best part of the album is the amazingly poppy and simple musicianship and melodies.
After one listen to the record you cannot help but walk down the street singing the melody of “Ban Marriage.” The background vocals just lift this song up into the air and make you float. This one song alone is reason enough to buy this album.
It is also a perfect song for the summer with simple acoustic guitars, a drum machine, and a great melody.
Another amazing song is the clap-along “Smells like Happiness,” where he describes a boy who wears “eau de toilette” and who “behaves well in department stores.” So catchy you just wanna scream, “Damn; that is catchy, funny, and cool!”
Do you want a not-so-aggressive driving pop song? Then look to “Boys of Melody.” It reminds me a bit of old Motown minus the soul. Well, the song has soul, but really it is only a Morrissey type of soul.
The music has a very Phil Spector classical sound. That is to say a Spector sound on a budget. The music definitely has a lo-fi sound, but it fills your ears with pure sonic bliss that a million-dollar studio could not create. Whether you are gay, lesbian, or whatever, you will find something to enjoy.
Gibb describes The Hidden Cameras’ music as “gay church folk music”: gay meaning both happy and homosexual, church meaning gospel influenced, and folk meaning acoustic-driven. That basically sums up their sound.
Such sweet music from some Canadian pop masters. Watch out, Stephin Merritt; I think that I smell someone trying to take your gay pop crown.