the hidden cameras and the arcade fire
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


[Hi Googlers! Please head on over to this post on the Arcade Fire - it's a heckuvalot more recent, and a whole lot more accurate. Thanks!]

I'll try to do some intermittent blogging as I wait to get hosting sorted out... so far I've got a couple of extra 1and1 accounts that have been offered. With a couple more, I should be set - so again, if anyone wants to sign up for an account and email the details my way (no credit card needed; just a phone number), I'd deeply appreciate it.

Sunday night I went to see the Hidden Cameras, at Le Swimming of all places. The place was as packed as I've ever seen it, but it was strange to see the piles and piles of indie rockers crowded up alongside the pool tables. The Parka 3 opened things up, and I realized it had been far too long since I saw them last. Still earnest, still awkward, still with killer energetic pop hooks, even if it feels like a bit of a stretch to call them "hooks." Suffice it to say that though the group was a little rusty, they were still happygreatfun.

Next, London ON's The Two-Minute Miracles, who despite their self-deprecation ("we're a baby band") just didn't impress. They continue to play competent, pleasant country-rock, but don't - and never have - been anything more than lacklustre. Also, lyrics like "I'm feeling horny in Californie" don't help.

And then: the Hidden Cameras. They were a celebration, to be sure. Six or eight people on stage, everyone giddy and glad, singing out the choruses like they were excited 10-year-olds in a church choir. As Julian said, they were slightly cheesy, sure, but that was more than made up for by the sheer gaiety (in, uh, both senses of the word) of their performance. Acoustic guitar strummed vigourously, xylophone smacks, drums pounding out like a disco marathon, synchronized dance-moves, harmonies. The dancefloor ran amuk with boppin' and jumpin', people singing along with the words (projected onto the stage)... A smile still climbs to my face when I imagine the riotous, proud singing - "Ban Marriage, oh-oh, oh-oh ohhhh!" It was an invitation to let oneself go, an invitation to be swept up in the reverie.

And it reminded me a great deal of the 'old' Arcade Fire. The Hidden Cameras seized onto the lunatic energy of their music, its potential to overwhelm people (no matter how twee it may be), to force a dance-step into their feet, to lift a smile to their faces. It's the sort of effervescent live-show that actually brings a glitter to peoples' eyes. Like with the Flaming Lips, the audience gets to reach for the sublime, cracking through the everyday and truly feeling.

A year ago, the Arcade Fire had precisely the same effect - it was amplified, even. Not all of their songs were happy, but the way the sound washed out - vast, catastrophic, dazzling, bright, - there was that exact same potential to close your eyes and be completely (gloriously) lost. This isn't just Godspeed style reverberations, either -- the Arcade Fire/Hidden Cameras/Flaming Lips compel you to lift your hands in the air and wiggle your fingers, to burst open at the chest and send out light in all directions. The Arcade Fire's "Headlights (Look Like Diamonds)" was always, live, like the sound of life that bursts through a cage, something vibrant and marvellous and thriving. The Arcade Fire are a better band than the Hidden Cameras - smarter, fuller, more varied and rich - but their recent turns toward darker, 'rock' material has undermined a lot of their celebratory potency. It's not that they can't tackle unhappiness - they do, and brilliantly - but when I saw them in September, they seemed lost in the muddle of alt.rock. All the new songs sounded the same - electric guitars snarling, lyrics angry and yelled, their new (pathetic) drummer slamming the skins like they were clumsy arena-rockers. "Headlights" was transformed into something moody, creepy - which isn't a problem in and of itself - but I can't imagine ever wanting to hear it (in that form) more than once or twice... all of that transcendent shiningness had leaked right out. The Arcade Fire were a band that you loved to see and hear, something that rejuvenated you with every show; their new direction (while it's been very well received in Toronto) left all of my friends here entertained, but unmoved. It wasn't a show - an experience, a feeling - that any of us could feel fanatical about. The primary response: disappointment. A band that I could have once imagined listening to forever, over and over again, being destroyed and created by the songs, was no longer wonderful. It merely rocked.

Win, Regine, Tim, Richard (and even Will!) were at the Hidden Cameras show. Maybe they saw what went on there... and maybe they'll remember the beauty of those old moments. Maybe. I hope so.

Posted by Sean at December 15, 2003 1:31 PM

one solution would be to encode the tunes at a much lower bitrate - they're only supposed to be "tasters" after all.

btw im still obsessed with "II_XV" - can i envisage a time soon when i wont listen to this song at least 5 times a day? i need it!

Posted by jed at December 15, 2003 8:28 PM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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