Jumping the Shark
[Secretly Canadian; 2016]
We are all flawed humans. All of us. Donald Trump. Hilary Clinton, and yes, even Ken Bone. Celebrity provides us all with an outlet to judge others without fear of repercussions, but in the end, we all have our own crosses to bear. Instead of taking aim at fame, Alex Cameron decides to expose the mundane flaws of all of us: the business man, the drunk, and the dude living in his parents’ basement.
Cameron, best known for his work with the electronic pop trio Seekae, has ventured out on his own with his first solo album Jumping the Shark and the results are silly, sleazy, and surprisingly tender at times. For the project he donned facial make-up of scars and pits to better represent the seedy lounge singer he embodies on the album alongside his sidekick Roy Molloy. Together, they create songs that sound outdated and cheap, an unadorned approach that better exemplifies the brilliance of Cameron’s storytelling.
On “Happy Ending” he tells the tale of a recently fired businessman stuck in Hong Kong. Before you have time to feel bad for the ill-fated protagonist he reveals, “When I was away on business/ Then I messed around.” The chorus arrives next with the line “But I’m back now baby/ Let’s go to Chinatown,” a broken man trying to grasp for memories of his times of debauchery and gluttony across the ocean. By the song’s end he’s living in his parents basement, driving a Mitsubishi Pajero, and dreaming of when he once had it all.
Despite having a tracklist comprised of ill-fated characters, Cameron is able to keep it light with humor and irony. “Real Bad Lookin’” is the tale of “The drunkest, ugliest girl at the bar” who only takes breaks from her drink to go check on her kid in the car (or as he describes it, “a Daewoo sauna”). “The Comeback” tells the story of an aging TV show host trying to keep his from being cancelled. The song is sung from first person, like most of the album’s tracks, revealing that the elderly host is an entitled asshole to the core. Again, humor arrives in the form of his lawyer, Ahmed, who “wears a suit and tie/ come on! Ahmed’s legit!”
All of the songs are anchored by outdated synthesizers and a clunky drum machine way beyond its expiration date. This barebones, chintzy production provides more focus on Cameron’s warm baritone and outlandish yarns. The album’s mix of lo-fi production and entertaining storytelling reminds me of Stephen Merrit’s early work as Magnetic Fields or anything off of Iggy Pop’s The Idiot. The characters on Jumping the Shark are also similar to those found on The Idiot – broken, self-centered, and on the brink of losing it all. Just imagine what Cameron could do with the story of Donald Trump’s political demise?