Album Review: Alex Cameron - Jumping the Shark

Alex Cameron - Jumping the Shark

Alex Cameron is an oddball. And on his debut album, he mixes knowing references with deadpan humour.

Rating:

Alex Cameron’s arresting video for ‘Take Care Of Business’ is a pastiche-slash-homage to Nick Cave: all sharp suit, wide collar, swept-back hair, deathly baritone croon and preacher-y hand movements in a seedy nightclub. There’s also the one for ‘She’s Gone’, in which he does a weird crouching Future Islands style dance. In slo-mo. On the roof of a car.

Yep, he’s an oddball. Cameron has constructed an elaborate backstory involving a (possibly imaginary) “business partner” called Roy Molloy who plays the saxophone in his band, even though he doesn’t really have a band and his record seems sax-free. He also refuses to conduct interviews outside his local bowling alley, or to discuss his appearance, which includes some prominent facial scarring.

Harking back to the late-70s/early-80s dawn of synthpop, ‘Jumping The Shark’ joins the dots between the pre-punk minimalism of Suicide and the lo-fi experiments of Ariel Pink, with its heart in the quirky noodlings of the first wave of synthpop – Fad Gadget and Human League, Tubeway Army and Ultravox, Flying Lizards and OMD.

Basic rhythms, simple synth melodies and the occasional burst of fuzz guitar provide a primitive vehicle for Cameron’s idiosyncratic lyrics, where the record’s real pleasures reside. Based on “experiences and stories”, these vignettes, delivered in a treacly croon, mine Cameron’s childhood and upbringing in the suburbs and rural areas of Australia. Their unifying theme is failure and dashed ambition. His characters – a rogue’s gallery of addicts, cheats and villains – share a nobility in their arc of sadness and self-destruction.
Consequently, ‘Happy Ending’ refers not to closure, not even ironically, but to the unadvertised extras available in a massage parlour (“Let’s go to Chinatown, That’s where we’ll find our happy ending”), while ‘Real Bad Lookin’ is an inebriated electro-waltz, sketching the fantasies of “the goddam drunkest ugliest girl / guy at the bar.”

‘The Comeback’ is the extended complaint of an embittered old showbiz trouper threatened by a new generation of entertainers, fantasising about getting his show back by any means necessary. There’s more of his trademark deadpan humour in ‘Internet’, with its Numanish two-note melody and affectionate tribute to the office technology of the late 1990s, with its promise of easily affordable hi-tech opportunity: “Got two modems, And a fax machine. I’ve got receptionists, They keep my office clean.”

‘Take Care of Business’

The People Have The Power: Mystery Jets

The People Have The Power: Mystery Jets

Having already set their sonic sights on the ’80s and outer space, on ‘A Billion Heartbeats’, Jets’ feet are firmly back on Earth, documenting the here and now in their most important work to date.

Close-Knit Compadres: Pottery

Close-Knit Compadres: Pottery

Cooking hot dogs in the shower. Writing love letters to drum kits. Finding enlightenment in puddles. Welcome to Bobby’s Motel, and meet its fantastic, frenzied rock’n’roll residents, Pottery.