Music

Alex Cameron is poignant and ironic as ever on ‘Oxy Music’

Cameron’s Oxy Music explores love, drugs, and online culture through buoyant synth-pop and carefully crafted character portrayals.

An Alex Cameron review is difficult due to his propensity to layer irony upon irony, sincerity upon jest, biography upon fiction. Still, this is what makes the unique, infectious, and illusive persona that is Alex Cameron… even his fans can never be sure if they really know him.

Cameron’s fourth studio album sees him move further from earlier flirtations with electronica in favour of satisfyingly cheesy, late 70’s/80’s soft rock, synth-pop, and blue eyed soul; one thinks of Tears for Fears, The Style Council, Spandau Ballet and, of course, Roxy Music.

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Despite Oxy Music’s pep, humour and brightness, it deals with some seriously depressing shit. Cameron’s crooning vocals, ever toeing the line between cringe and genius humour, deliver narratives of isolation, dejection, drug addiction whilst also, inevitably, poking fun at some of social media’s toxic tropes. The latter is most observable in Best Life where Cameron’s character morns his lack of online traction, claiming to be misunderstood by someone who “never had a presence online”. Cameron further points at the superficiality of online personas, “When they ask you how you’re doing baby don’t think twice/ You say I’m out here living my best life.”

Best life, being the album’s opener, has a fittingly theatrical introduction. The horn melody is dramatic and regal, drawing the listener into the world of Cameron’s characters; the romance, the dirt, the highs and pitiful lows of drug use, online cultures and indeed, love itself.

Prescription Refill‘s central metaphor, “You fill my prescription baby/ Just wait till I get my hands on you,” combines themes of love and drugs in a way that is characteristic of the album’s identity.

Hold The Line conceals destitute addiction and painfully gullible, loving parents, beneath boppy beats, plucking rhythmic guitars and fun horns. In a similar way, Cameron is able to conceal his own sincerity, touching on something heavy, yet not really discussing it at all. In doing so, Cameron’s artistic identity shines through… tiptoeing around a confronting topic, with a little help from a jovial instrumental.

Dead Eyes is an absolute standout. It’s a little darker, murkier, and more brooding. Cameron’s vocals sit deeper; a space where they’re richer, warmer, and noticeably flattering. The saxophones leading into the second chorus are smooth as fuck, the pre-chorus build is perfect, and the vocal melody satisfyingly sits in the mid-tempo. Once again, it’s an explicitly drug themed song. It captures the desperation of addiction coexisting with, while simultaneously at odds with, romance and relationships…“you can’t get hard/ but then again, yeah then again you might.”

With such an obvious palette of references, Oxy Music seems to have lost some of the subtly present on Cameron’s earlier works. The faded cover art and explicit title, whilst cleverly referencing the famously decadent and hedonistic glam-rockers, suggests an engagement with drug culture which is ever so slightly on-the-nose. The album’s production, whilst immaculate throughout, utters, at times, a sterility and lifelessness.

With song titles like K Hole, Dead Eyes, and Prescription Refill, however, and song-writing which oozes pure, delicious cheese at every stage, Cameron throws subtly to the wind. He shouts, “Who needs it!” whilst dancing, red-speedo cladded upon rocky sea-shores. Oxy Music is an extremely cohesive record; thematically, sonically, aesthetically.