When I looked at the promo pictures of Alex Cameron, I assumed that this whole thing was a goof, an approximation of genuinely transgressive artists' past work. And when I noticed that my promo copy of Alex's new album, Forced Witness, came with a "letter from Alex" explaining his approach here, I assumed that not only was this a goof, but it was a goof that the artist wasn't entirely committed to, not if he felt the need to send out an explanation with his work; did Iggy send any letters out? Lou Reed? Bowie? Nah. They didn't, did they?
Now that said, a lot of this works, even if it's a goof. Forced Witness, out this week on Secretly Canadian, offers up a bunch of songs that channel fairly successfully the mid-Eighties material dropped by the previously-mentioned Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, among others. The superb "Stranger's Kiss", a duet with the copiously-talented Angel Olson, is a supple beast, one full of sleek hooks. Similarly, the bright "Marlon Brando" seems more of a natural fit for Alex's talents, poised as it is somewhere between mid-Eighties Bowie-inspired synth-pop and the kind of modern retro-pop that bands like Gardens And Villa do so well. Elsewhere, the easy indie-pop of "Runnin' Outta Luck" charms on first listen and every subsequent one, while the sharper "Country Figs" offers up something more challenging, a rough mix of Hall and Oates with INXS, or something, only darker. Now, if that darkness is approximated, it sometimes doesn't matter as Alex Cameron has at the very least made a highly listenable album here. These electro-pop songs are sometimes silly but they are always oddly compelling. So, ignore the letter and the silly poses in the pictures that accompany this release, and just focus on the music as it is something fresh in the parts that work. Fans of MGMT and LCD Soundsystem, for example, will find a lot to embrace here in Alex Cameron's brand of retro-tinged electro-pop.
[Photo: Chris Rhodes]