Alex Cameron’s ‘Forced Witness’ is gut-burstingly hilarious
Meet Alex Cameron. He’s the world’s favourite loser, a sleazeball, a scumbag, or at least that is what he wants us to think. From Sydney, Australia, Cameron with his debut album, the appropriately titled Jumping the Shark consists full of imagery about the losers, the nobodies and the morally bankrupt.
His songwriting, verging on the parodic earned him significant fans in Foxygen, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Angel Olsen. Perhaps none more significant than Brandon Flowers of the Killers, with whom he struck up a friendship while touring the album. This resulted in Cameron co-writing five songs in the Killers’ latest, Wonderful Wonderful, and Flowers co-writing and providing backup vocals in Cameron’s new album.
Cameron as an act has never been alone, joining forces with saxophonist and business partner Roy Molloy during recording and on his live shows, where he portrays himself as a failed entertainer. On Forced Witness, he employs producer Jonathan Rado, which results in a cinematic experience, providing Cameron just the sort of platform for capturing the audiences. Each of the ten songs in the album takes the perspective of either an asshole or a helpless schmuck. This results in a satirical take on the toxic masculinity rampant in today’s world. Cameron excels in building up a strong and a very vivid character portrait in his lyrics.
‘Candy May’ talks about an abusive relationship that the protagonist is in, yet is unable to get out of it, due to his attraction towards his abuser. His lyrics have all sorts of extremes, from the inspiring and the poignant to the seedy and gritty, from the gross to the smart. ‘Runnin’ Outta Luck’ details a man down on his luck in Vegas while he tries to maintain a relationship with a stripper, even if both know that it isn’t going to work out. ‘Stranger’s Kiss’, a duet with Angel Olsen details the last legs of a relationship gone wrong, with the couple taunting each other with sarcastic quips and threats of despair.
Much of the songs detail on online relationships that the protagonist embarks upon. In ‘True Lies’ he meets a woman, that may very well be a Nigerian guy and results in being catfished. Yet he carries on talking to the person, filling his relationship with ‘beautiful lies’. Similarly, the protagonist isn’t averse to being a creep, as heard in ‘Studmuffin96’, where he embarks on an online relationship with a girl that may very well just be under the age of consent.
The album is a perfect blend of soaring pop rock with just a sprinkle of disco in ‘The Chihuahua’ and reggae in ‘The Hacienda’. Cameron’s moment to absolutely take over the album comes in ‘Marlon Brando’, a satirical take on the narrator’s jealousy and pettiness with just the right amount of fun, damning and edgy. The narrator just wants to pick up fights at a bar, calling others ‘cowards’ and homophobic slurs in an attempt to fish for compliments by the women there, such are his insecurities. ‘Politics Of Love’, another song co-written with Flowers along with ‘Runnin’ Outta Luck’ ends the album on an inspiring and euphoric note.
His songwriting is gut-burstingly hilarious, with one-liners littered all over the album. The instrumentals, with the sparkling synth chords and the hook-filling guitars, is reminiscent of the Australian bands that exploded in the late 80s, like INXS and Midnight Oil. However, the best aspect of the album are the hooks, which are memorable and will stick in the minds of the listeners. The album does not overstay its welcome for a second long. Along with compatriot Kirin J Callinan, Australia may have just produced another genius songwriter.