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Review: Alex Cameron - Miami Memory

Sam Campbell reviews the latest LP from the Aussie oddball

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Image Credit: Secretly Canadian

If you've never listened to Alex Cameron before, then it is difficult to explain his sound. There are catchy synths, weird melodies on the keys flying everywhere, 80s-esque percussion and ballad-style vocals. All of this sounds fairly run of the mill as indie music goes in 2019 – but no one is quite like Cameron. His career and music is essentially built around the character of a failing performer, with delusions of grandeur and a perpetually creepy turn of phrase. Imagine the music of a frontman from a long-forgotten pop band, who has missed by a fair few years the right time to just call it a day. His persona is like the lovechild of Alan Partridge, GG Allin and Millhouse's dad from the Simpsons, with the track list of Miami Memory featuring titles such as 'Stepdad', 'Divorce and 'PC With Me'.

The album opens with the single 'Stepdad', and in true Alex Cameron style it follows the sad and ridiculous narrative of a stepdad who has been kicked out by his partner addressing his stepchild. This hilarious premise results in a slew of brilliant, tragicomic one-liners, such as 'I know they say I'm frail and broken / But you can't treat your mum that way.' Similarly, the eponymous track – a groove led, synth heavy anti-love song – is an example of Cameron's calculatedly ham fisted comic turn of phrase in such repulsive lines as '[eating]* your ass like an oyster / The way you came like a tsunami.' *And in the following track, 'Far From Born Again', which tells the story of a woman who is serially taken advantage of by devious men: '*Far from born again / She's doing porn again'. *Cameron's lyrical content is full of such grotesque and at times desperately sad phrases.

'Gaslight' is an acoustic guitar led piece of indie rock, featuring accordions, lush synths and dramatic flourishes – something akin to Ariel Pink in its orchestral feel and its curious, wandering arrangement full of sonic delights. Following this is the rock 'n' roll swinger 'Bad For The Boys', which sounds like a karaoke cover of a Velvet Underground demo. Both of these tracks seem to be characteristic of the album's tone as a whole: a glossy veneer of artifice which is perhaps not heard at first listen, but which is integral to the concept of Cameron's act. The whole thing is supposed to sound false, and slightly wrong. Everything jars and there is a constant discomfort throughout the entirety of the album.

Meanwhile, 'PC With Me' matches a cool, drawling southern rock sound with horrible lyrics such as 'Boots all shined, I'm Santa Claus with AIDS / Selling pornographic polaroids and counterfeit shades', and 'Sodomy in Berlin with no gluten tag'. This is a track which perfectly concentrates the idea behind Alex Cameron: music which is genuinely enjoyable and musically worthy of praise, but paired with a comical depravity that cuts right through and repels the listener. The pointedly un-PC content of the lyrics, though, is not inhibited by the cynicism which inspires similar humour among online edgelords. Cameron's awareness as a performer is ingenious.

Despite all the depraved lyrical content, the album is not bereft of musical prowess. 'Other Ladies' is an accomplished ballad, featuring soaring organs and delicate, measured piano accompaniment as Cameron puts in a stellar vocal performance. On tracks such as this and 'End Is Nigh', one is reminded of the presence of producer extraordinaire Jonathan Rado (of Foxygen fame), whose technical ability and perpetual knack for bringing something chaotic into a cohesive whole is  evident at vital moments on this record. Without his abilities, it is entirely possible that the album could have fallen apart. Another interesting musical turn is the closing track 'Too Far', a playful lo-fi, industrial piece featuring tinny 808s and a delay-heavy vocal. As a closer it brings a tinge of tragedy to the overall tragicomedy of Miami Memory – as Cameron sings 'I'm gonna get my happy ending', evoking a sense of pathos which plays against the unsympathetic nature of his character up until this point.

Where the album lacks, even still, is its inconsistence. It is glaringly obvious that it is a concept piece, and the listener must be aware to fully appreciate this. Without that awareness, though, many will be left feeling bemused – albeit with the redemption of a few excellent pop tracks. There is something uniquely and inescapably uncomfortable about the music of Alex Cameron – a bit like scrolling through the Instagram account of a middle-aged bloke who comments heart-eye emojis on the posts of every girl you know – and this will be difficult for many listeners to get away from. Nevertheless, *Miami Memory *remains musically interesting and a feat of performance art.

3/5 Stars

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