music is my boyfriend

It's hard to believe that it has been five years since the Hidden Cameras came into my life.

I remember the moment distinctly -it was April 2003 and I was working as the program director at WCVF, the more traditional college radio station - if you will - of the two stations that were housed under the Fredonia Radio Systems umbrella at SUNY Fredonia. My friend Jay was the music director and - knowing my love for absorbing all the new music I could - generally gave me second dibs [after himself, of course] at the new music that came into the station each week. This particular week, two 7"s from Rough Trade caught my eye. One was a white label 7" for the Kills new single 'Fuck The People', which I thought was an AMAZING name for a band and a song and I was prepared to have my mind blown by it. The other was the Hidden Cameras' 'Ban Marriage' backed with 'Fear of 'Zine Failure' - my friend Melissa in London had been raving non stop about these guys for weeks and, since our musical tastes tended to overlap quite a bit, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about.

I got back to my apartment that afternoon and put on the Kills record first. Now, over time I've come to realize I made a hasty judgement but I was massively disappointed. Here was a band called the Kills with a single called 'Fuck The People' for christsakes, and the best they could come up with was some poorly-recorded 2-minute country-rock romp? Talk about not living up to your name. Due to that one listen, I refused to give the Kills a chance - even when I couldn't stop hearing good things about debut album "Keep On Your Mean Side", even when I was told no, I was wrong. I didn't want to hear it - they had disappointed me, and I wouldn't reverse my opinion on them until a curiosity listen of 2005's "No Wow" changed my mind. I still think the song itself is a bit of a disappointment and "Keep On Your Mean Side" remains my least listened to - and least favorite - Kills record, but that's neither here nor there.

So I then put on 'Ban Marriage' and instantly I am blown away. AMAZING! I couldn't believe the musical euphoria that was coming out of my speakers. Fully entranced for four minutes and enjoying every second of it, I couldn't wait to see what amazingness was hiding away on the b-side. Well, as great as it is, 'Fear of 'Zine Failure' was a bit of a let down after the revelation that was 'Ban Marriage', so it put the a-side on again. And again. And a fourth time. Incredible. I e-mailed Melissa to let her know, however I also regretfully said that as brilliant as 'Ban Marriage' was and considering my reservations about the b-side I wasn't sure I could stomach a whole album of it. Trust me, she said, the album is incredible.

My best friend at school and main musical companion was Jennie May, whom also worked at the radio station. [Which reminds me, I need to return her call.] Anyways, I had her over after she got out of class to play this amazing piece of vinyl for her and she also falls in love. We can't wait for the full length.

So maybe the next week it was "The Smell of Our Own" lands on our desk and we instantly put it on. We love it, but aren't blown away by it. 'Ban Marriage' is the best thing here, we think, though we're also drawn to 'Smells Like Happiness' and 'Breathe On It'. Then there was the artwork! Bums, bums and more bums! Amazing! And the slightly shit-stained sheet ghost with a boner. Incredible! And is that a penis-topped dagger? So good.
After the first listen, I think perhaps they blew their wad too soon - so to speak - with 'Ban Marriage' and clearly there's no way the album can live up to it. Jennie May is infatuated with it, however, so she takes it home and listens to it a zillion times I'm sure.

That next week during all of my calls to the promoters, I'm talking with Justin at AAM whom is promoting this particular record. Having already gushed about how much I loved the single to him, he asks how I like the full length. Eh, it's OK I say. Really he asks, because he was sure I would love it. It's not that I don't, I say, it just doesn't quite live up to my expectations - which I admit were unnaturally high. I comment on how much I love the artwork, though, and he tells me he'll send me a few copies of the LP - on gold vinyl, no less. BRILLIANT! I'm sold and am willing to give the album another chance. He also tells me they're touring that summer and that he'll hook me up with tickets to whatever show I can make it to as he hears they put on quite the live show.

So May comes, and the album is released on my 23rd birthday. Since I can't tear the station's copy away from Jennie May and the vinyl hasn't arrived yet I go out, purchase a copy and give it a good, solid listen at home alone. This time, more sinks in. 'Golden Streams' - I get it! It's not about the pee, it's about what the pee symbolizes. 'A Miracle', 'The Man That I Am With My Man' and especially 'Boys of Melody' - I get them! That feeling of totally giving yourself over to someone - or someones.

Now I tend to be hyperbollic anyways [really?], but I will say in all honesty that this particular listen of "The Smell of Our Own" did something to me. At the end I still thought it was missing something - it didn't quite all fit together yet - but I really felt like it was speaking to me. It was written to me. Maybe because I was going through a lot of shit at the time, that could be part of/a lot of it. Maybe I was really looking for that next band to really, truly love and I was making it into something it wasn't, that could be it to. But after that listen, I felt like - for the first time in a long time - I had made a connection with this album. And this is all terribly cheesy and cliche and all that bull shit, but fuck it. I'm not afraid to say it, I fell in love - like really, truly in love with this album, and I needed it in my life. It was, if you will, the album I had been waiting for. Jennie May thinks I'm crazy - it's just a really amazing album she argues - but to me at that time, it was way more than that.


So. The two of us together and I alone played the hell out of that album for the next two months. Come July the tour hits Cleveland, which is 2 hours away from Fredonia. Would I like to go, wonders Justin? Why, of course say I! Even better, would you like to interview Joel Gibb, head Cameras? Hell yeah! So Jennie and I pack our DAT and microphones and head to Cleveland. I reviewed the show for Excellent Online and I don't think I can say it any better than I did the first time, so I send you here (webpage gone - sorry!) for that part of the story.

So now I've had my mind blown not once, but twice by this band in a three month span. There's something to this. I spend the rest of the year sucking up any and everything related to the band I can find. In December, I find out they're playing a special Boxing Day show at Lee's Palace - "The Union of Wine" show it is dubbed - so I meet up with my friend Jason in Toronto and off we go. Equally incredible, this show, especially because they play no less than 8 new songs for their already forthcoming second album - all of which [except for 'I Want Another Enema' which I don't totally get after only one listen] are ridiculously great. My favorite is a number called 'No Gay Goth Scene' and I can't wait for the album so I can have a hard copy of it.

Over the course of 2004, I lived and breathed the band. I saw them six times I think, including: once with the Toronto Dance Troupe for their "We Are The Same"/"Skin & Leather" show, where they unveiled 'Men: Vous Etes Les Memes'; the "Mississauga Goddam" launch party where they played in a church; the Toronto Harbourfest where they debuted the songs 'Awoo' and [I think] 'Why I Understand' and the heavens opened upon us during 'Ban Marriage' in one of the most perfect concert moments ever; and opening for the then relatively then unknown Arcade Fire at SUNY Ithaca where they played 'No Gay Goth Scene' at my request and I heard newie 'Lollipop' for the first time. Knowing nothing about the Arcade Fire except that there's no way they can top the Hidden Cameras, we leave - a move people have called crazy over the years but one I stick by. [The Arcade Fire are shit. Seriously.] There were more shows in there, but those were the most memorable.

[Side track - at the Harbourfest show, the band on before them - and I have NO idea who they were but they weren't very good - did have a moment that trumped the Hidden Cameras. So they're playing and they're pretty boring. Then they announce it's their last song - hooray, my bands on soon. And they want to invite out a very special guest for their last song. Joel Gibb perhaps? No, they announce please welcome...




{Are you ready for this? People flat out refuse to believe me when I tell this story but I swear on everything I hold near and dear this actually happened.}



Margaret Atwood to the stage! WHAT!?!? And Margaret fucking Atwood walks out on stage and stands there in the middle of the stage. What on earth is going on? So they start, and there's a part of the song where each member takes turns singing and don't they include Margaret Atwood in this. She can't really sing very well, by the way. Oh, did I mention that she's PLAYING THE THEREMIN THE WHOLE TIME?!?!?!? It was ridiculous.]


My anticipation for "Mississauga Goddam" for the first half of the year is intense. I simply cannot wait. First, we get the "Play the CBC" sessions EP so we get a version of 'Music is my Boyfriend' to listen to on repeat for a while...but I'm holding out for the big one, 'No Gay Goth Scene'. Finally, Melissa manages to get her hands on a copy of the album and shares it with me. Track by track, she sends it to me. 'Fear is On' - alright! 'Builds the Bone' - fantastic! 'In the Union of Wine' - hooray! 11 tracks I get, and each one I'm already pretty intimately familiar with from seeing them so many times, yet there are still 2 new ones - 'That's When The Ceremony Starts' which I love, and 'Mississauga Goddam' itself which I knew of but had never managed to hear live.

What's this, though? Where's 'No Gay Goth Scene'? That's right, IT'S NOT THERE. :( *Sigh* Maybe on a b-side or EP or something. So we get the 'I Believe In The Good Of Life' single - two new songs in 'I Burn My Seed' and 'Divide' - nice, but not what I wanted. Full versions of 'High Upon The Church Grounds' and 'Steal All You Can, Motherfuckers' - again, incredible [particularly the latter] and Joel did say they were coming at some point, but again not what I want. Obviously, I'm still waiting for this one to appear - and amazingly, I've never been able to find a bootleg of it even. [If anyone out there can help me at all, you'd be my favorite person in the whole wide world.]

So in 2005, my Hidden Cameras live affair started to cool down, but I did still manage to see them 2 1/2 times I think. Once in Boston with my best friend from high school Brent [who totally loved it, by the way], where I got to speak at length with Maggie from the band. I requested they play 'No Gay Goth Scene' if they would be so kind, and she said she'd love to and would run it by Joel but wasn't sure if they'd get to it - they had had trouble crossing the border and barely made it to the show on time, so tensions were running pretty high and the setlist had already been written. We didn't get it, but we did get a very nice full-band version of 'Worms Cannot Swim Nor Can They Walk' to open the show and a few new preview songs from the still in the works "Awoo". She did say that the band love the song and it should come out some time soon. [Still waiting....] I reviewed that one too, and it is right here. (gone again - damn this internet) This was also the show where the guy in front of me kept turning around and hitting on me even though I made it very clear I wasn't interested - I wanted to DANCE, muthafucka! This year also included the final time - so far - that I've gotten to see the band, at the "In The Graveyard" collaboration with the Toronto Dance Troupe that November. Sadly, my last Hidden Cameras live experience was a bit of a disappointment as I didn't realize they were only playing new material - outside an encore of 'In the Union of Wine' - and I honestly didn't really think the new material was as compelling as the older stuff.

Before the album comes out, another mega-fan by the name of Mark emails me - having come across my review of the Boston show. We share stories and love for the band via emails for the next few months.

Flash forward to 2006 and "Awoo" finally comes out - all not having 'No Gay Goth Scene' on it and everything - and the magic has started to fade. It's a solid record, don't get me wrong, it just doesn't do it for me like the others do. It's missing something - besides the holy grail of Hidden Cameras songs, of course. To this day I can't put my finger on exactly what it is. Mark and I reconvene our emails to each other, and we both agree that "Awoo" is a bit of a disappointment.

And here we are today. The last I knew, they toured Europe in the Spring and shot a short film that was shown at a Calgary [I think] film festival that has yet to be released outside of that. The film is supposedly tied in with an album to come in 2009, but is it a Hidden Cameras record? There are no details. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

So that's my walk down memory lane. Over the past five years, "The Smell of Our Own" has only become more special to me - I can't think of an album as important to me as it. My initial fascination with "Mississauga Goddam" - the indie-pop "Very", I say - has faded to appreciation for a really solid pop record. I can't remember the last time I had the urge to listen to "Awoo" - sad, really, as there are some really classic songs on it. I'd love to see the band again in a club setting, though I'm a little afraid all this time away will make the experience less special.

Tour again and prove me wrong. Please.

A live version of the song that started it all:

Single of the decade right there, no doubt.

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