Alex Cameron With Holiday Sidewinder, Molly Burch At The Lodge Room, Thursday February 22nd 2018
Who is Alex Cameron? The fact that I am asking the question presupposes he has an aura that precedes him. If you look at the cover of his two albums, he looks like a guy not afraid to play a character, he has fake scars on his cheek on the cover of ‘Jumping the Shark’ and wears his hair slicked back as if he was playing a gangster or an outdated lounge singer in a movie, while he half way looks like a rock star on the cover of ‘Forced Witness’. He is Australian, he duets with Angel Olsen (‘Stranger’s Kiss’) on a song of his last album, which was produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, he has opened for the Killers, and was unexpectedly praised by Henry Rollins (out of all the male rock stars) in one of his columns…. Two sold out shows at the Lodge Room later, I was there on Thursday night to check out theeee Alex Cameron.
Before Alex Cameron, fellow Australian Holiday Sidewinder opened the night with her diva-like number and her sweet electro pop just accompanied by a guitarist and a drum-synth machine. She got really funky after a few songs with some Daft-Punk-like disco dancefloors and she seemed to be a natural, dancing and singing with ease. But this is what happens when you start your career at 14, at the time she fronted the band Bridezilla, who got great recognition in the indie scene and a debut album voted as one of Rolling Stone’s albums of the year in 2007. The ‘Thriller-like texture of one of her songs (‘Casino’) seemed to be a prediction that the night definitively belonged to the ’80s, as she turned to be Cameron’s keyboardist later.
The music of songstress Molly Burch was sprawling in a melancholia so sweet, that you would have wanted to wrap yourself in her spectacular voice. Opening with ‘Please Be Mine’ and its slow Twin Peaks guitars, she immediately left a strong impression, putting a spell on the crowd just like Angel Olsen did it when I saw her for the first time in a small venue. This was a voice that should have stopped everything, and I am saying that despite the fact that there were some rude people which continued talking in the back of the venue throughout her set. Too bad for them, they missed the emotional beauty of Molly Burch. Backed by four musicians, her voice was floating strong and vulnerable above a sort of nonchalant fifties-inspired Americana, and if I understand the comparisons to Patsy Cline, she was a star of her own. Her voice, deeply emotional, warm and subtle, was soaring like a Roy Orbison dream and suddenly becoming harsh to whip up the song from its torpor. It was a beauty that probably escaped the loud talkers at the bar in the back of the room, but it was totally their loss.
But Alex Cameron and his band were the stars of the night,… but is he a rock star? He looks like one and almost dances like one, but he doesn’t really play rock, rather a fusion of soft rock-new wave disco dancefloors which can be a real ‘80s throw back at times. I heard all kinds of things during his set, from an abundance of ‘80s synth jams to ‘Dancing in the Dark’ saxophone solos, played by saxophonist Roy Molloy, a man whom Alex Cameron called his ‘business partner’. At one point, Molloy took about 5 minutes to describe the stool he was sitting on, but that just the tip of the humor of the night.
Passed the pleasantly eccentric theatrics, the songs had great melodies, and Cameron was right away a charming character doing the sexy dancing at the sound of his sax songs, a character you immediately wanted to be acquainted with. He told us about the great thing to focus on, which was not being naturally good looking, but ‘looking good’, ‘which are two very different things’, he added just before singing his bumpy and hilarious song ‘Real Bad Lookin’… and this is when I understood a bit more about Alex Cameron, although he still looked a bit mysterious to me, but mysteries are entertainers’ best friends.
His songs are hilarious, his lyrics are hilarious, but you never know if the characters are seriously acting out of desperation or if they are parodies of a bad sitcom: ‘So I cut some hose, from the local park/And I rigged my car up, now I’m fumin’ in the dark/And I’ll tell you all somethin’ bout flyin’, I never have to jump the shark/Just to get my show back’, he sang during ‘The Comeback’, a song about an ageing show-biz man who has lost his show and ends up killing himself out of rage and desperation. This ‘I never have to jump the shark’, this ultimate middle finger at the edge of death, sums up very well Alex Cameron’s world, oscillating between hilarious parody and terrible tragedy, whereas his joking tone between the songs could you make wonder where he exactly settles between these two extremes in real life
‘Candy May’, his idea of a love song, started with the depressing lines ‘Candy May, I think I’m dying/Yeah, ’cause I’m frail and I’m tired/And I constantly complain about the pain I’m in’, but it was also filled with a nostalgic sax that could you bring decades back in time. When he told us he sometimes thought he was a dog in a relationship, he was not seeing himself as ‘a German Sheppard’ but ‘a small, companion-sized animal’, he explained before ‘The Chihuahua’, a song with the most comical break up line ever: ‘Our love was like a fire/Yeah, I pissed on it so I could sleep’…I see what you are thinking, Alex Cameron is a jerk, what kind of man wrote such a line about an ex?
No, he is not, but there’s a mini tragedy at each tune, almost each song is about some end of the rope situation, mentions suicide or some other desperate measure, but thanks god, there is the internet and meeting people in chat rooms. There’s an embrace of the sleazy modern world and its online lies, and the internet hookups are saving people from loneliness at the risk to lose everything, ‘Yeah there’s this woman on the Internet/She sends me pictures of her beautiful eyes/And I ain’t telling no-one ’bout the money I’ve sent/I don’t care if they’re just beautiful lies’, he sang in ‘True Lies’.
‘‘Forced Witness’ is a contribution to the investigation into what it is to be a straight white man,’ said Alex Cameron, ‘It’s a scary thing, you come up on stage as a straight white man, and starts singing the blues,’… ‘this song is about a confused straight white man’, he added before ‘Marlon Brandon’, a tune which could be the most melodic and innocent sing-along if it wasn’t for these rap-like lyrics about a man starting a fight over an insult, ‘You tell that little faggot call me faggot one more time’!
During the encore, the band graced us with one more slow jam, ‘Take Care of Business’, a song with a much darker texture and that he introduced by saying he thought he was writing about an ex-girlfriend when he realized he was writing about his mother. They ended the show with ‘She’s Mine’, an emotional dancefloor pushing the sordid character up in our faces once again ‘’Cause when you’re fucking with your fate, you can’t take no on the first date’,… It’s just water/Taste it (it’s just water)/I promise (it’s just water)’… What? Is he singing about date-rape?… ‘Take care of each other!’ he told us before leaving the stage.
Alex Cameron and his witty sense of humor is my new jam, but, before jumping that shark, I will need a few more listens to explore his world of macho men chasing teenagers on the internet and eternal romantics jumping off the cliff before colliding into one big creepy tragi-comedy.
Real Bad Lookin’
Runnin’ Outta Luck
Politics of Love
Take Care of Business’