Under the Skin: Australian Alex Cameron's latest Album is a Poignant Slice of Reality
2017 has been a heavy year. We have, teeth gritted, peeled back the skin on our collective consciousness and glared into the sunlight of our systemic sins. Art has a way of muting this pain, of catching our attention in a way that inspires us to grow. Music, too, acts as a diary for these moments - allowing us to bob our heads and raise our firsts interchangedly. In his latest album, Alex Cameron takes his lyrical knife and cuts through the web of tension we’ve grown uncomfortably familiar with, exposing layers of love, pain and potential only music can reveal. Offering poignant and empathetic character studies, His latest work in “Forced Witness” is an addictive shot of reality in this post-truth society.
Born in Sydney as the youngest child to a set of “tender, loving parents,” Alex Cameron describes the inspiration for his sophomore album as an amalgamation of growth, observation and the evolution in perception that comes from growing up. “When I started [writing the album], about three years ago - the words started to come first. It actually started with refugees — It started when the men in the Australian parliament were really playing political games with refugees and I was like...I started wondering about who these conservative men were. I started thinking about the community I was raised in. I have a very fortunate upbringing, I got like, really tender loving parents, I’m Australian, I was raised in Sydney, in a really sporting environment — a lot of sports, lots of like surfing, that kind of thing. And it all started to blend together for me… I’m interested in this masculine behavior that, at the bottom level, would be the way a man treats another man at the bar, and, at the top, the way government treats humans. It all felt very masculine; it all felt very toxic; it all felt like something I could write a record about.”
Though varied, Alex’s sonic personas find a home in each of our realities. One, for instance, becomes rather suited to a man I shared a subway car with, another fills me with images of an ex-lover. Turns out, this is exactly the aim of Cameron’s work: “I write very specifically, but the purpose of writing specifically is that, if you nail it perfectly, it can develop a sense of universality — or whatever you want to call it.”
With songs focusing so intently on the male psyche, it was refreshing to watch Cameron explore a sense of the feminine in the various iterations of his work. “I was kind of noticing these bizarre, male-dominated themes in a lot of classic rock songs and I just thought ‘well, let’s explore this perspective and see if we can’t kind of figure something out,’” he says, as a thin line of drums makes its way through the background. [Editor’s note: Cameron called us just before he played a show in Bristol, England] “I’m never really completely comfortable with that sort of...really confidently broadcasted masculinity. When a man exudes or attempts to exude control or power over a situation, to me it sort of comes across as baffling, or a little bit foolish, you know. Men are really aggressive and trying to control circumstances with testosterone and physicality. It’s, it’s rarely successful. I was always much more impressed by the strength of the women in my family.”
It’s no surprise that such an upbringing has lent itself to a kind of self-awareness suited to the scope of Cameron’s work. Throughout the course of his previous — and debut — album, Cameron donned a set of prosthetic wrinkles, creating characters that gave an honest voice to failure, something most of us try to conceal. The catch with Cameron is that none of this staunch realism ever appears to drag — the contagious, clear consideration in each tune evokes a complexity that is strikingly human.
Rounded out with the melodious “Politics of Love” — what Cameron calls his “mission statement” - “Forced Witness” is not a preachy record, but rather a well-written slice of Western culture that will take you home, wherever you’re from. “I would hope that people at first are confronted by the stuff that matters, you know, maybe a little bit,” he says. “But I’m also hoping that it’s the way a good story always behaves...like a thought you’ve always had but have never been able to articulate.”
Frankly, that’s exactly how it feels.
More of Alex here.