Joel Gibb was born to a God-fearing family in the sterile suburb of Mississauga, a frigid little Canadian town just south of Toronto. He grew up religious, suburban and, subsequently, in the closet. But this would have its benefits. Growing up awkward and alone, Gibb was forced to create an escape, an alternate reality of sorts. So his love affair with outsider art began. And now music is his boyfriend.
Gibb and music have been going strong for four years, and with good reason. Gibb treats music with respect, pampering it with flowery melodies, sweet serenades and golden showers.
Gross, I know. But somehow it works. See, Gibb is compelled to try new things. It's this juggling of riotous "purity" and dirty "perv-ity" that led him to create the Hidden Cameras, a multidimensional, folky pop project made possible by creative liberation and a revolving cast of players.
"I found music and he found me," Gibb sings on "Music Is My Boyfriend," his vibrato vocals rising higher and higher as if he were leading a gospel choir. "A bald head-banging preteen, so he seduced me in a dream/ I kissed his ugly gangly greens, he swallowed my pee."
But that's not all music did for him. It brought Gibb into the sunlight and us some of the best pop songs of our day.
"Guitars make me happy, drum beats make us all free/ Solid as a rock lover is the music in me," he coos atop distant tambourine shakes and a mounting orchestration, his words running together like those of an overexcited preacher.
Released by Rough Trade in the U.K. last year, the Hidden Cameras' sophomore effort, Mississauga Goddam, just recently became available in the U.S. It fuels their current U.S. tour, which pit-stops at Holocene on Saturday.
"That's when the ceremony starts," Gibb croons weightlessly on the sluggishly chugging theatrical song of the same name.
And a ceremony no doubt it will be. See, Gibb would never take his musical lover out without first dressing him up. With a fascination for the mix of faithful devotion and naughty play, Gibb takes a church-informed approach to live performance, employing male go-go dancers to offer up the blood of Christ, or just red wine, and angelic female strippers that get, well, naked. Add to the equation the number of music makers onstage, and it's easy to see it'll be one heck of a party.
"Mississauga goddam/ bear the drudgery of my old man," Gibb sings so soft and sweet you'd think he was praising the Lord if you weren't paying attention on the sad, reminiscing title track. "I'll be wearing my disguise, until I lead my life from Mississauga goddam."
If his disguise is the brilliant Hidden Cameras, then I'm glad he's hiding.
The Hidden Cameras plays with the Blow and Crime in Choir at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., 239-7639. 9 pm. $7 advance. 21+.