Alex Cameron makes us take an unflinching look at some awful dudes on Forced Witness.Secretly Canadian, 2017
8.4 / 10
He’s no Ariel Pink, but Alex Cameron is an odd guy. For the Aussie’s previous solo album, Jumping The Shark, he wore prosthetic wrinkles on his face. Why? It was so that he could adopt the persona of an old singer/songwriter (think: Leonard Cohen). Call him a method musician. For his latest album, Forced Witness, Cameron sent a letter accompanying the review copy of the album. In this letter, Cameron reveals that he was once an investigator’s assistant in a public law office. He quit due to stress from “investigating corruption.” However, his ability to expose dark human nature remains intact. It carries over to the ten songs on Forced Witness. Much of the time, Cameron focuses on “a global movement of ancient masculinity.” So, yeah, lots of bad dudes inspire these songs.
What’s most striking the album is how Cameron contrasts his often gut-punching lyrics with pristine, non-threatening pop music. Yet, instead of feeling safe, Cameron’s words assault you with repulsive details. More than one song references masturbation, several refer to women as “pussy”, and then “Marlon Brando” brings homophobia to the forefront. Here, the character sings, “You tell that little faggot call me faggot one more time,” as he lashes out against the boyfriend of a woman he likes. What makes the song work is how well Cameron fleshes out the “Marlon Brando” protagonist. However, you likely won’t root for him. Rather, you’ll loathe him.
But you’ll probably feel this way for most of the characters behind these songs. On “Studmuffin96”, his character is carrying out a sexual relationship online with an underage girl. “I’m waiting for my lover/ She’s almost 17,” he sings. A line that strikes you with the force of a lead pipe to the skull. “True Lies” also makes a reference to younger women while tackling online infidelity. Here, a married man hides his indiscretions from his wife. “Well, what’s the difference darling/ Between my eyelids and a glowing white screen/ When either way I’m thinking/ Of the hottest barely legal age teens?”
You almost begin to worry that Cameron gets too deep into character with these songs. Is he a creep himself? He sounds overly convincing as he spreads misogyny and sexism. But perhaps it’s because he’s reminding us of people we knew or currently know. But even as much as they offend, these songs stick with you as fine pop songs. Ones you’ll want to sing out loud to yourself. Now, who’s the creep?