Bearing witness to the baroque clusterfuckery of the world is no longer voluntary. We are all forced to watch. Every...
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Bearing witness to the baroque clusterfuckery of the world is no longer voluntary. We are all forced to watch. Every possible catastrophe vibrates in our pockets, demanding to be witnessed. In his second album, Forced Witness, on Secretly Canadian, Alex Cameron’s solution to the difficulties we face is a danceable and dangerous earnestness, a sense of honesty that heals and relieves even as it cleaves us or makes us laugh in self-defense. He’s offering us vivid portraits of misfits who look at the world without illusion.
Recorded in Berlin, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas and produced by Cameron along with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, these tracks at first seem shamelessly entertaining, the driving rhythms and rousing melodies embellished at every turn by Roy Molloy’s warm hornwork. But the love songs and anthems of personal resilience contain as much raw humanity as they do a savvy grasp of the impossible loneliness of the times, especially apparent in the song Stranger’s Kiss - Cameron’s affecting duet with Angel Olsen (who also sings backup on lead single, Candy May).
The defiantly bloody knuckles in 'Runnin’ Outta Luck' co-written by and featuring Brandon Flowers and the grime of wet dreams in Country Figs occupy the same space as the great sadness of the internet in the catchy and contemplative song True Lies, in which Cameron sings about that buzzing hive of randomised sexuality where we can either submit to the stirrings in our own laps or let our fragile hopes catfish us.
Penultimate track Marlon Brando, is, as Cameron describes it, “a study of a man in the hopeless pursuit of a woman. He is a familiar character in the world, a self-assured jock, a dullard, a low grade human who uses a specific kind of language when he finds a situation outside of his control. The song's lyrics present a damning indictment of homophobia and misogyny and their genesis in toxic masculinity.” If there is darkness in these songs, it is not because taboos can titillate but because Cameron knows that confession has a redeeming power and that people are often at their most startlingly beautiful when their skies have fallen.
These songs are alive with the rich detail of life lived and the radical distinctiveness of the stories they tell feel universal. In these chaotic times when we aren't able to look away, Cameron is offering us a pure account of the world as he's seen it.
“Up until 2014 I was an investigator’s assistant in a public law office. I can’t tell you exactly what my job was on account of I signed a shut your mouth agreement around the time I quit for stress related reasons. But what I can say is that I dealt with corruption and badness perpetrated at the highest levels of authority, daily. I clocked all these leads and I made a file. Because these aren’t things you keep in the dark. You shine a light on the badness and you strive to understand it.
“From a dossier on all things delicate and beautiful and sadly human. Crimes of passion and victims of love. All contained in 10 hot songs. Who’s the culprit? I’ve got my inklings and you can get your own. But first you need to listen to the thing, take it all in, stick photos to your walls and connect them with string, measure footprints in the yard, wear a suit made of reeds, track the migration patterns of birds, intercept whispered transmissions, learn to eat spiders with a hunting knife, sleep in air ducts, make the case.
“Here it is, my album: ‘Forced Witness’.” - Alex Cameron
Candy May Country Figs Runnin’ Outta Luck Stranger’s Kiss (duet With Angel Olsen) True Lies Studmuffin96 The Chihuahua The Hacienda Marlon Brando Politics Of Love