Alex Cameron is a certified weirdo. This much was made apparent pretty early in his career with his performance art debut in 2016, “Jumping the Shark”, through which Cameron donned aging makeup to appear as a failed older musician. It was dark, subversive, and very odd practically putting us directly into the position of its narrator as he wanes in and out of obscurity.
Things got even stranger on his 2017 album, “Forced Witness”, a mix of stadium heartland rock a la Bruce Springsteen with elements of synth-pop. On the project, Cameron assumed multiple characters, all examples of the worst humanity has to offer. Many of these characters were creepy and obsessive loners (ie incels) who are pretty much irredeemable as people but were portrayed in a uniquely satirical and descriptive light. It echoed the musical equivalent of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” with all the lovable grime associated with the program.
“Forced Witness” was actually one of my favorite albums of 2017. Along with his feature appearance on Kirin J. Callinan’s pop-country banger of a single, “Big Enough”, Cameron quickly became one of the most exciting and unique voices in modern alternative.
This brings us to 2019 and “Miami Memory”, a remarkably different album from “Forced Witness”. On this album, Cameron abandons the character studies and writes directly from his own experience, mostly about his relationship with actress and “Girls” star Jemima Jo Kirke. Cameron’s crudeness remains, as does his biting sense of humor, but the lyrics are more sincere this time around.
It begins with “Stepdad”, a pop-ballad directed towards his new stepson, which speaks on Cameron’s status as a somewhat controversial rock star its impact on his relationship with his son. He sings, “But if you see my name in the headlines and they’re all pissing on me / I’m your stepdad.” Cameron also tells the story of how he met Jemima: “Saw your mom on a TV show and that was that,” and almost admits to being somewhat ashamed of his place in society: “And I know you’re tired, young’n / Time to wise up or you won’t see / What your dad does for pay.”
“Stepdad” works precisely because it is so unexpected from Cameron who in the past has deflected questions about his personal life and its connection to his music. The same applies to the surprisingly hilarious “Divorce” which contains one-liners like, “I got friends in Kansas City with a motherfucking futon couch.” On this track, Cameron admits that these threats are juvenile and stupid and explores his seeming lack of maturity and ability to handle real adult relationship responsibilities. This theme is of a relationship on the ropes is also present on “End is Nigh” which takes a sadder, more low-key approach to the subject.
The album is also filled with gems that are less personal to Cameron, like the absolutely hysterical “Bad for the Boys”, a crude condemnation of the toxic masculinity that prevails in society. “Now you’re living little lives without women / And blaming them for all the change / You thought the boys were gonna to stay the same / But no one cares about your good old days, ooh.”
Essentially, Alex Cameron has found a way to preserve the hilarity and character development of his earlier work and apply it to himself. He discusses how he doesn’t feel the need to be politically correct with his wife on “PC With Me”, and details an intimate vacation with his wife on the title track. Almost every song hits a pretty distinct and occasionally emotional chord with the exception of the somewhat uncomfortable “Other Ladies.”
Overall, “Miami Memory” is another great album from Cameron that continues his streak of crafting bizarre, comical romps with deeply flawed characters at the center.