Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Origin:Orphan (or, The Art of Saving the Best for Last)

Since I first listened to AWOO back in July 2013, I've been slowly falling in love with The Hidden Cameras. I've now acquainted myself with the lion's share of their back catalogue, and the latest addition to my HC collection was Origin:Orphan, their fifth full-length album, released in 2009. I bought it off Amazon for, uh, not very much, and while it initially struck me as somewhat sub-par, repeat listens have been kind to it, and O:O is now up there with Mississauga Goddam as one of my favourite HC releases.

Allow me to expand on this. Repetition is a big part of the HC sound, but even I, with my everlasting 'ard-on for ostinato, found much of Origin:Orphan to be rather samey, at least on the first couple of spins. In the NA was a particularly irritating offender - not only is the tune pretty repetitive, but pretty much every line ends in the exact same way:

That wasn't the only track I had a problem with, though - He Falls to Me, Colour of a Man, and several other songs were simply too boring for the me who first slotted Origin:Orphan into his car's CD player. Mind you, it wasn't all negative - the album's final three tracks managed to rescue the whole experience for me, with Underage and The Little Bit coming as a particularly life-affirming (and brilliantly brassy) one-two just as I was about to give up. The closing track is lovely as well.

It was this closing trio that brought me back to Origin:Orphan and gave me cause to try it again. This is where Joel Gibb's decision to place the best song at the tail end of the record really paid off: if The Little Bit had been the opening track, O:O would almost certainly have become one of those albums that I don't bother to sit through. You know what I'm talking about - those albums that you think you really like, but that you invariably switch off after the first few songs because you know that you've already heard the best bits.

Fortunately, Origin:Orphan is not such an album, and I'm not the sort of person who skips straight to his favourite tracks - the brilliance of tracks 9, 10 and 11 was enough to ensure that I would happily endure tracks 1-8 on a regular basis, just to really feel the thrill when Underage finally arrives:

Love that intro (0:52). It's the sound of salvation.

But that's not the whole story. By forcing myself to hear those first eight tracks every time I wanted to hear the final three, I actually began to enjoy the songs that had previously seemed dull. Ask me now, and I'll tell you that Colour of a Man is beautiful, that In the NA is goofy fun that I can't stop humming, that Kingdom Come - a track that I barely even noticed in the beginning - is actually one of the best tracks on the record:

So artists, take note: shunt the most obviously amazing songs right to the very end of your album, and people like me will be far more likely to enjoy the whole thing.

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