Alex Cameron’s façade as a cocksure sleazebag is so meticulously sewn into his music, it’s easy to mistake his satire for ignorance.
Rather than dancing around topics like misogyny, homophobia and toxic masculinity, Cameron embodies them, wearing the personas of the obnoxious characters which fill his songs like a second skin.
Sometimes brash and bold, other times ridiculous and bordering on nonsensical, Cameron’s lyrics demand attention. For the most part, his dedication to his muses is recognised for what it is: art. Though, the vulgarity and offensiveness of his words can distract from their meaning for listeners not attuned to his brand of irony.
Through Jumping the Shark and Forced Witness, we’ve seen Cameron inhabit the mindsets of an assortment of repugnant characters, though his latest album Miami Memory suggests a shift into new territory. Here’s to some of Alex Cameron’s wittiest and grittiest lyrics yet.
‘Stranger’s Kiss’ (2017)
A duet with Angel Olsen, ‘Stranger’s Kiss’ follows the dissolution of a relationship in which Cameron plays the archetypal ‘man’s man’ unable to articulate his feelings or reach out to his lost love, in spite of himself. Drawing on everything from fucking the pain away to patriotism, Cameron meanders between relatability and novelty; “I got shat on by an eagle, baby/Now I’m king of the neighbourhood/And it feels like I could/Just peel the gym pants off a single mother/But this run of good luck don’t got me feeling all that good.”
‘Miami Memory’ (2019)
‘Miami Memory’ is an ode to Cameron’s partner Jemima Kirke, though it’s far from a typical love ballad. Instead, the track paints a picture of nights spent holding hands at strip clubs and indulging in voyeurism and cellulite massages. “Eating your ass like an oyster/The way you came like a tsunami”, coos Cameron and though the sentiment is crude, you have to admit the imagery comes from a place of romance. As for the lyrics, “Knowing the world is a sinking ship/Knowing we’ve been here before/Knowing when cars fill with water/A vacuum seals the door”, well, that’s a different story entirely.
‘Marlon Brando’ (2017)
‘Marlon Brando’ has copped some flak for its lyrics, particularly the use of the word ‘faggot’. While a homophobic slur doesn’t make for singalong material, Cameron explained his choice in an interview with Rolling Stone, saying: “If you’re trying to write a character and you’re giving that character this side of their personality which is destructive and offensive, then it’s on the table.” It’s clear from the lyrics – “You tell that little faggot ‘call me faggot one more time’/Where I’m from little darling/A king hit ain’t a crime/When you’ll see his face tomorrow gonna wish that you were mine” – that Cameron isn’t making a case for homophobia. Rather, he is making a point out of the type of men who use derogatory language and revert to aggression and violence as a means of asserting themselves. It’s ugly and uncomfortable, but that’s the point.
‘Real Bad Lookin’’ (2016)
‘Real Bad Lookin’’ meshes two stories together: one of a negligent mother and cheating wife spending her days drinking at bars, seeking a rich man to bankroll her, and another of a materialistic businessman who’s too busy trying to impress everyone and flaunt his success to see beyond his bank balance. Lyrics like “I am the goddamn drunkest, ugliest girl at the bar/Yeah who the hell are you to tell me that I can’t leave my kid in the car” and “I made a deal over lunch baby, yeah it was worth 15k/I show my teeth when I smile in a real matter-of-fact way” don’t exactly evoke sympathy for the respective parties, nor do they intend to.
‘Country Figs’ (2017)
With an artist as elusive as Alex Cameron, it’s difficult to determine whether the lyrics of ‘Country Figs’ are autobiographical – at least in part – or another cleverly spun yarn. Having migrated to the US from Sydney, it’s easy to imagine Cameron as the country fig “stuck here in a city/where the people all speak like pigs”. However, other Australianisms, such as references to Best and Less and “a skin full of piss and one last dart”, further this theory. Whatever fact is present, it’s definitely diluted by a hefty dose of fiction.
‘The Chihuahua’ (2017)
“Our love was like a fire/Yeah I pissed on it so I could sleep/Now I’m scrolling/Haven’t counted casualties/And no sense of disillusion/No sense of profound tragedy/My rage is but a blinking satellite/Hurtling towards nothing” opens ‘The Chihuahua’, offering an eloquent and poetic description of someone ruining a relationship out of self-destruction. The lyrics are to the point, capturing the conflicting thoughts of someone set on keeping love at arms length, no matter the emotional consequences of committing to loneliness. “And I get my satisfaction baby/Got it streaming in 1080p/Across multi-tabs I see sun-kissed flesh/I see no end to torture and misery.” Who knew a song which uses the word “pussy” no fewer than 11 times could offer such wisdom?
‘Gone South’ (2016)
‘Gone South’ could just as easily be centred around a boy scouts camping trip as a military mission, and while it isn’t entirely clear where the narrative is set, it’s not really important either. The track dallies with the ideas of technology, the food chain and power dynamics, though ultimately the human ego overpowers all; “I made some notes for my legacy/With some mud on a rock/But I was not fulfilled without an audience/After a while I gave up.”
Cameron’s latest track, ‘Divorce’, dropped in June and suggests an interesting direction for the album it’s taken from. Though it’s a break-up track at heart, ‘Divorce’ looks at the logistics of parting ways with a loved one more so than the heartbreak you’d expect from a track with this title. “I got friends in Kansas City with a motherfucking futon couch/If that’s how you want to play it/I’m drinking in the dark because my battery’s all ran out/All you got to do is say it/Divorce” are the markings of a bitter husband at the end of his tether.
‘True Lies’ (2017)
A substantial number of Alex Cameron’s tracks detail the perverted musings of men behind closed doors and ‘True Lies’ is up there with the grittier of the lot. Detailing a man who is torn between dedicating his attention to the woman he loves and strangers on the internet, you almost want to feel sorry for the protagonist as he wrestles with the ethics of ogling women on his computer screen and imagining them in his mind. The closing verse, “Yeah there’s this woman on the internet/Even if she’s some Nigerian guy/Yeah well you should read the poetry he speaks to me/I don’t care if they’re just beautiful lies”, makes you feel a little bad for the poor sucker.
‘The Comeback’ (2016)
The tale of a washed-up actor who has been kicked to the curb by showbiz, ‘The Comeback’ is quintessential Alex Cameron. “Ahmed, my lawyer, he said you can’t do this/Ahmed wears a suit and tie, come on, Ahmed’s legit/He’s comin’ at you like a paralegal nightmare, I got him stayin’ up at the Ritz/We’re gonna get my show back”, he pleads in a riches to rags narrative of a star falling from the top and struggling to find his place in the world. It’s funny, dark, silly and steeped in realism.