Tomorrow Never Comes

Neal came by today and asked what I thought of the new White Stripes album. I said I didn't know, I didn't have it, I didn't want it. He asked why not, and I said I didn't know.

I still don't.

That's a lie. I do know. I haven't bought the new White Stripes album for any number of reasons. One would be that I'm sulking about the fact that no-one bothered to send me out a review copy. Because Tangents isn't big or important enough and doesn't rank alongside or even anywhere near the likes of Bang or whatever the hell other shit new music press is out there, despite the fact that hey, I reckon we get at least an equivalent readership across the four corners of the globe, and despite the fact that, yours truly excepted no doubt, Tangents has some of the best writing I want to read about music anywhere.

So that's reason one.

Reason two would be to do with elitism of course. Elitism is an integral part of the Pop Experience. Can we accept that as read? Pop is not about inclusion, at least not on a large scale. Pop is a gang activity. So when some of the most annoying and hateful year 9 boys start talking about the White Stripes in school, I know it's time to distance myself from such things. It's kind of like that Raymond Briggs book about Father Christmas on his summer holidays, always having to move on when someone spies him and twigs who he is.

I said ´kind of'.

Reason three would be maybe the most honest, regardless of whether anyone believes it or not. Reason three would be that I just don't need a new White Stripes record in my life.

I have the Hidden Cameras.
Hidden Cameras are nothing like the White Stripes. They aren't even in the same universe, which of course is part of the main attraction. Because where White Stripes embrace and celebrate Rock lineage (sure, whipping it about and warping and reconstructing it), Hidden Cameras just seem to be off on a totally different trajectory altogether: coming from who knows where and heading off nowhere anyone recognises.

That's a lie too of course. Because anyone who cared to look could see that Hidden Cameras spring from a heritage every bit as defined as that from which the White Stripes evolved. The difference is that the heritage of Hidden Cameras is one that has been historically, ah, hidden. It's the heritage of an underground Pop given birth in the ´80s, borne on the lapping waves of punk and which has, despite the best efforts of the mainstream media to hi-jack it in the various guises of ´indie' down the years, remained resolutely shrinking in the shadows.

Not that Hidden Cameras are shrinking violets. And not that I'd know of course, being stuck here in an attic in Devon instead of the cosmopolitan Toronto that Hidden Cameras call home, but the feeling I get is that this is a band who are all about getting up and doing It, whatever the hell It might happen to be any given moment in time, and more than this, doing It with a song in their hearts, a spring in their step and a smile on their lips. With Hidden Cameras you get the impression that there are no mundane options, only the urge, the desperate need to get up and out. From what and to where is for you to decide.

Fuck it, let's get to the point here: Hidden Cameras are a terrific dance band.

Hidden Cameras make me want to get up and dance like no other band has done for a long time. Hidden Cameras make me want to proclaim their wonder from the highest peaks. Or at least to play their records loudly through the open attic window and to write ´Hidden Cameras are God' on my classroom whiteboard.

Of course I've been here before, and much as I vowed I would avoid saying this, well here I am saying it anyway: Hidden Cameras remind me of all that Belle and Sebastian could once have been. Which is being mean as hell of course because let's face it, Belle and Sebastian once were all this at least and if the baton has been passed to Hidden Cameras to take to the next level, so be it. And Hidden Cameras do seem to take the spirit of the Belle and Sebastian that changed my world and lift it way up, take it wider, higher, further. For me, Belle and Sebastian stumbled when the idea of a band without a leader became more a reality than an ideal; when Stuart Murdoch allowed the quality of songs to slide for the sake of letting the other band members exercise creative control. With upwards of 40 members at any given time, Hidden Cameras also seem to stretch out the notion of the band as socialist collective. But with Joel Gibb as acknowledged Head Camera, they also understand that art by committee almost never works. Because despite their idealism Hidden Cameras embrace the notion of the bandleader, like Lambchop with Kurt Wagner, or Dexy's with Kevin Rowland. It's surely what gives them their edge.
That edge is there for all to hear on the anthemic recent ´Ban Marriage' single; a single that rushes headlong into the chasm of breathless abandon on the kind of relentless Beat blast that has you hitting ´repeat' all day long for a week, and it's all over the debut Hidden Cameras album The Smell Of Our Own. Songs like the Velvets-tinged ´Smells Like Happiness', the glorious Neu!-inflected breathe that is ´Day Is Dawning' and the masterful Gospel shimmy of ´Breath On It' are evidence that in Joel Gibb we have a prodigiously talented songwriter, and that in Hidden Cameras we have a wonderfully peculiar troupe capable of reaching higher that the highest highs you care to imagine.

And of course all of the aforementioned reference points are there to throw you off the trail entirely. Hidden Cameras don't sound anything like the Velvets or Neu!, although they are certainly in the spirit of the finest Gospel choir you care to imagine, assuming of course those choirs hung out in porno theatres and sang hymns about (gay) life with an apparent honesty that is marvellously wholesome and poetic.

And whilst if pressed I'd probably tell you I prefer to listen to the versions on their soon to be mythic CBC Radio session, well, maybe that just means they have yet to master how to capture the essence of their monumental group hug live-sound experience in the studio.

Is this then giving lie to the idea that Pop is not about inclusion? Not really. Just inclusion for the dispossessed, inclusion for the outsiders looking for a place to rest before moving on to somewhere and something else. Hidden Cameras give the sense that they implicitly understand the transitory nature of Pop life; that they have to make this noise, that they have to perform these minor miracles of immersive wonder now. Because, naturally, tomorrow never comes.

© 2003Alistair Fitchett