It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote that “first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. Clearly, Alex Cameron sees it as his mission to stretch that maxim to the absolute limit.
After years of trying to get my head around him, the approach I’ve landed on is to consider Alex Cameron musical persona as a combination of a Louis Theroux-style documentarian and a semi-fictionalised Curb Your Enthusiasm version of a pop star. Across the previous three full-length albums, the Australian singer has taken it upon himself to become the Steve Irwin of male toxicity – unafraid of jumping straight in the swamp and climbing right up through the cesspit to show us around.
In that sense, Oxy Music doesn’t really deviate from the pattern set down by 2019’s Miami Memory. Of course, there’s been a pandemic since then, and while this record isn’t explicitly about COVID, it’s thematically inseparable from post-lockdown fallout, charting the descent from disinformation and isolation into narcissism, addiction and egotism. This ranges from the Alex Cameron of opener ‘Best Life’ – a guy trying to square his online and IRL personas – to the Alex Cameron of ‘K Hole’, a regretful sad sack mired in self-delusion and chemical escapism.
As ever, though, the problems come when Cameron forces you to figure out whether he’s joking or not. Unfortunately, this tends to blunt the impact when he does have something to say. It’s most acute on ‘Cancel Culture’, a song that attempts to wade into the minefield of cultural appropriation and how Westerners often borrow without understanding prior significance. However, as soon as Cameron croons the lines, “Lily-white but I listen to hip hop, show me the crime? Says I can’t sing along, I even use the accents baby”, the meaning is blurred. It’s down to you to work out if he’s ripping the piss or siding with edgelords who spout this shit.
But then, that’s the point, right? As a listener, you’re not supposed to know where you stand with Alex Cameron, and the fun comes from trying to figure him out. Oxy Music might head into some dark places, yet Cameron is only ever the tour guide, neither condemning nor celebrating the things that reside there. He simply lays it out, and it’s up to you to make up your own mind.
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