Music

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.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Film

The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Featured: Top of Home Page

'Breathing Through the Wound' Will Leave You Gasping for Air

As dizzying as Víctor Del Árbol's philosophy of crime may appear, the layering of motifs in Breathing Through the Wound is vertiginous.

Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Music

Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish Replace Form with Risk on 'Interactivity'

The more any notions of preconceived musicality are flicked to the curb, the more absorbing Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish's Interactivity gets.

Music

Martin Green's Junkshop Yields the Gritty, Weird Story of Britpop Wannabes

Featuring a litany of otherwise-forgotten budget bin purchases, Martin Green's two-disc overview of coulda-been Britpop contenders knows little of genre confines, making for a fun historical detour if nothing else.

Reviews

Haux Compellingly Explores Pain via 'Violence in a Quiet Mind'

By returning to defined moments of pain and struggle, Haux cultivates breathtaking music built on quiet, albeit intense, anguish.

Reviews

'Stratoplay' Revels in the Delicious New Wave of the Revillos

Cherry Red Records' six-disc Revillos compilation, Stratoplay, successfully charts the convoluted history of Scottish new wave sensations.

Reviews

Rising Young Jazz Pianist Micah Thomas Debuts with 'Tide'

Micah Thomas' Tide is the debut of a young jazz pianist who is comfortable and fluent in a "new mainstream": abstraction as well as tonality, freedom as well as technical complexity.

Music

Why Australia's Alice Ivy Doesn't Want to Sleep

Alice Ivy walks a fine line between chillwave cool and Big Beat freakouts, and her 2018 debut record was an electropop wonder. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, she tries to keep the good vibes going with a new record decked out in endless collaborations.

Books

Five Women Who Fought the Patriarchy

Whether one chooses to read Square Haunting for the sketches of the five fascinating women, or to understand how misogyny and patriarchy constricted intellectual and public life in the period, Francesca Wade's book is a superb achievement.

Film

Director Denis Côté on Making Film Fearlessly

In this interview with PopMatters, director Denis Côté recalls 2010's Curling (now on Blu-Ray) discusses film as a "creative experiment in time", and making films for an audience excited by the idea of filling in playful narrative gaps.

Music

Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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