Because Joel Gibb began his career shocking the less sexually liberated homophobes among us, his genius as a songwriter sometimes gets overlooked. When you bolt out of the gate with button-pushing offerings like “I Want Another Enema” and “Golden Streams”, the unfortunate thing is that you end coming across as the gay, orchestral-indie-pop equivalent of GG Allin.
Gibb seems only mildly interested in baiting flaming fucking assholes like Fred Phelps on Origin: Orphan. Sure, he was no doubt smirking to himself while finalizing titles like “Underage”, “He Falls to Me”, and “Colour of a Man”, if only because he understands that what’s dirty and what’s not is often in the mind of the beholder. But it’s not like he’s salted his latest songs with odes to mudslides, donkey punching, decanting, or booger planting. In fact, the only thing that’s really shocking about Origin: Orphan is how gorgeous the record is.
Five albums into a decade-long career, Gibb could be forgiven for running on fumes. Instead, he sounds like a man whose famously deep well of inspiration shows no signs of running dry.
The most perverse thing on Origin: Orphan might just be the way that Gibb starts things off. With “Ratify the New” we get a full minute of what sounds like a subdued VSO tuning up in the orchestra pit. From there, he takes his sweet time getting going, gradually layering on white noise, Gregorian chant, and deep-space synth transmissions before finally stepping to the mike at the 2:24 mark. Let no one suggest that he doesn’t have a flair for the dramatic. A couple of minutes later, things pull a hard left, with droning strings conjuring up the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, after which the whole gorgeous mess crashes across the finish line on the back of military-tattoo drums and thunderstorm guitars. It’s a stunning beginning.
And that’s only the start. Over the course of 11 tracks Gibb gives every indication that he’s grown tired of being filed under Canuck Indie Pop at Zulu. “In the NA” meshes brushfire-country guitars with mellifluous organ trills, “Do I Belong” dabbles in new-wave techno, and the grand brass-blasted title track suggests that someone has been gorging themselves on old Spiritualized records.
Hell, Gibb—who is famously humourless as an interview subject—even seems like he’s not above having a little fun. Plunked in the middle of all the gold-gilded grandeur, “Underage” works a breezy Hawaiian vibe so authentic you can almost smell the swaying palm trees, grass hula skirts, and mai-tai-coloured Maui sunsets.
And on the subject of “Underage”, well let’s just say you can’t totally make a tiger change his stripes. The track finds Gibb doing his best to outrage intolerant fucks everywhere with lines that sound suspiciously like “You have the most beautiful young thing I’ve ever seen”. Dirty? Maybe. Brilliant? Absolutely, for no other reason than button-pushing has seldom sounded so sublime.