PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Alex Cameron Is the Good Guy on 'Miami Memory'

Photo: Chris Rhodes / Courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR

Alex Cameron's third album, Miami Memory, is still some kind of monster, but it has drawn in its teeth and is laughing with the family.

Miami Memory
Alex Cameron

Secretly Canadian

13 September 2019

There are many reasons to listen to pop music. Sometimes you need something to relate with, and sometimes you need some melancholy to roll yourself into. Sometimes you need a beat to move, and sometimes you get a taste for something that will throw your brain into a blender and hit "liquefy". Alex Cameron's albums can do that. His first two albums were wild journeys into decidedly horrible characters' psyche, sending your thoughts to play catch-up with your belief system like you're listening to an old Randy Newman record for the first time. Cameron was a man showing off his collection of gruesome masks. Cameron's new album, Miami Memory, is claiming to clean all that up and show us the real Alex Cameron behind that grimy guy we already know. It's tender, playful, and occasionally just plain triumphant.

Cameron's debut Jumping the Shark was a nightmare, and no one would be surprised if it was picked up by David Lynch for a feature. The album is sonically dreary but pleasantly reaching, and it's lyrically full of lurching creepies. The follow-up, Forced Witness, was much of the same despicable characters but with a Springsteenian makeover. You still hated the leads, but you could bounce your knee and shuffle your feet to it. Cameron's third album, Miami Memory, is still some kind of monster, but it has drawn in its teeth and is laughing with the family.

Let's take the lead track, "Stepdad" as an example. It starts with synth spikes and a melody not unlike something Cameron has offered up on past albums. Musically, it's a glorious blast. Something's off though: the protagonist seems all right for once. We don't instantly want to push him away. I mean, the chorus says, "I'm your stepdad", and the verse describes reading to the child and making imaginary worlds in the living room as he does so. It's absolutely wholesome, and, it seems odd to say this about an Alex Cameron album but, somewhat touching and just plain fun. What is going on here?

Cameron is doubling back is what. He's still occupying the same world of people on the fringe of society. But now he seems invested in humanizing what's good in these characters and demonizing what's bad. "Bad for the Boys" starts with imagery describing some typical bad guys, to an uncomfortable degree. Cameron rides a Steely Dan beat describing their viewpoints. But by the end, he's letting us know that they're "living little lives without women". Blaming them for all the change. You thought the boys were going remain the same. But no one cares about your good old days." So, its as if the new Alex Cameron has zoomed out and is now commenting on that old Alex Cameron character. It's a little unsettling at first, but there's a dose of triumph in all of it, as well.

So, which has more value? The grimy Alex Cameron character or the behind-the-mask, loving, and fun Cameron we're hearing on Miami Memory? There's no answer, of course. There are many reasons to listen to pop music. Right? Cameron has played the villain in the past, now he's playing the good guy, and he's great at that just the same. He's gone from terrible to tender. Good trade, I'd say.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.