Published Sep 11, 2019Fans of Alex Cameron's brilliant and perhaps controversial sophomore effort were surely wondering if lightning could strike twice with Miami Memory. Those who followed its promising string of pre-release singles might have been reaching for the nearest grounded conductor even. Rest assured that while perhaps not quite as consistently good as 2017's Forced Witness, the Sydney, Australia-born singer-songwriter's latest is nonetheless excellent, hilarious and bursting with even more broken and misunderstood men, some worthy of sympathy, others decidedly not.
Like his past work, Cameron (mostly) employs a high-concept approach wherein he sings and pontificates from the perspectives of various down-and-out characters. Opener "Stepdad" is a prime example; sung from the perspective of a sporadic provider to his stepson on the eve of his fraught departure, it is tender and poignant, but certain lyrical details suggest a background of dysfunction and poor judgment that casts an uneasy shadow. Cameron is a master when it comes to building ethically knotty vignettes like this.
Other portrayals are more clear-cut: "Gaslight" is a chillingly on-point snapshot of a toxic relationship sung from the perspective of a manipulative partner, and the lyric "hear me out, I'm a nice guy" suggests Cameron remains fascinated by some of the darker corners of the internet. "Bad for the Boys" treads similar ground, giving us a regular rogues gallery of incels and "men going their own way" type misanthropes. Both are sung over upbeat melodies and jaunty rhythms that belie their serious content (another Cameron hallmark), adding further tonal complexity.
As before, this juxtaposition — along with Cameron's vivid and profane lyrics — often leads to hilarious results. Third single "Far From Born Again" (a respectful and fully woke ode to the lives of female sex workers) contains the line "Far from born again / She's doing porn again" for instance, and while certain more ornate descriptions may strain the limits of his phrasing from time to time, it's always a pleasure to hear Cameron flesh out these bizarre characters. He certainly still has a way with words, to say the least, and saxophonist Roy Molloy is along for the ride again as well, adding soulful hues throughout.
While casual listeners may find this humour flippant, given the topics explored on Miami Memory, closer listens reveal a mature and surprisingly au courant album that grapples with complex social issues in a commendably fearless way. Cameron reports from society's deplorable underbelly with compassion, or at the very least understanding. An exciting and unique voice. (Secretly Canadian)