Alex Cameron’s album, Jumping the Shark, is unnerving. Basically, you’re stuck in a David Lynch fever dream.
Alex Cameron’s album, Jumping the Shark, is unnerving. From the very beginning, you are placed into this dark, dank basement of a narrative. Then he turns on the hanging bulb light and stares you down. He tells you some creepy stories about his life in show business. He tap dances and makes you watch. Basically, you’re stuck in a David Lynch fever dream. At least, that’s the way it feels.
Alex Cameron is originally an electronic musician from Australia. His group Seekae made electronic music that occasionally evokes bombastic instrumental groups such as Explosions in the Sky in one track while sounding like classic '90s IDM in the next. The expansive sounds displayed in his work with Seekae have little to no connection to his first solo album, Jumping the Shark. This album is in another world. Furthermore, this album is not made by Alex Cameron of Seekae. This album is by Alex Cameron, the character. On his official website, Alex Cameron states this about his first solo record: “It is a collection of tales I wrote about my life in show business. The people I have met. The stories I have heard. The love I have gained. And the fears I have developed.” Jumping the Shark is a character sketch about a washed up has been. Actually, it’s more than a sketch, it’s an exploration of this man’s psyche, and this man is a creep to say the least.
In the opening song, “Happy Ending”, we learn that Cameron has lost his job in Hong Kong and has started hearing voices. Later, in the magnum opus of the album, “The Comeback”, he details the story of his show being cancelled as well as a suicide attempt: “So I cut some hose, from the local park / And I rigged my car up, now I'm fumin' in the dark / And I'll tell you all somethin' bout flyin' / I never have to jump the shark just to get my show back.” On “The Internet” he dedicates an entire song to justifying starting a website, which somehow makes you just feel uncomfortable. The closing track, “Take Care of Business”, closes the album out at some kind of grimy peak. When Cameron sings, “With a metal wreck, with a rusty tool, with snakes below / She grabs the axe from me and takes care of business,” you might just go double check your doors are locked.
Musically, the album is about as minimal as it can get. The instrumentation consists of a primitive sounding drum machine and some aged synths. The synths have a noted '80s preset vibe to them. It’s as if Suicide copped the gear from the Born in the USA recording sessions and tried to make a Don Henley record. More important than the tone of the synths is the use of them -- it’s sparse. Nearly each song begins with one repeated riff and over time a lead part is overlaid. This approach, although simplistic, works. Without all the decorations, the simple repeated patterns bore themselves into your head, becoming the foundation for this strange journey.
And a strange journey it is. Alex Cameron’s Jumping the Shark is a lofty and successful piece of work. Lyrically and sonically, it tells a story. It’s not a pleasant story, but that’s the life that “Alex Cameron” has lived.