Looking back at 2017, and all the artists I had discovered, few really stood out to me in the way Alex Cameron did. His sophomore album Forced Witness was my introduction to him and I was instantly captivated by the satirical takes on masculinity and sex, all while having incredible melodic instincts and a classic 80s dad rock aesthetic. The album landed a spot on my Top 10 for that year and is still on rotation for me to this day. It is not a surprise to say that I was more that a little excited for Miami Memory to see where Cameron would take his sound and songwriting next
I think the main difference from Forced Witness would be how open and honest the songwriting is here. Cameron himself has described this album as a completely uncensored look into his feeling and said everything on here is from true experiences. How much of that is true, I don’t know, but I get the feeling that this could be his most revealing work. The stories being told, while still having the humorous tone we have come to expect, do feel much more grounded in reality this time around.
The opening track, “Stepdad” is a pretty blunt example of this, capturing the story of a father being kicked out of his home and living his new life. The song, while a bit comical, is darker the more you read into it. With the narrator telling his son that his demons are all in his head as he walks out to references to homelessness in the chorus. All this behind some rather cheap sounding keyboards, which at first were grating but now I think the opulence that they are trying to add gives the track a lot of texture and fits well with the aesthetics of a broken man trying to reach something bigger. Despite the darkness, the track is ultimately sweet as we do see Cameron trying to get closer to his step children, something that is certainly personal for him which is why this is such a great start to the album.
This feeling of Cameron expressing his personal feelings can be seen in a completely different way on “Far From Born Again.” Here, Cameron takes a look at the women who work in the sex industry. Whether it be strippers or porn stars, Cameron uses the track to humanize the people who work these jobs that are viewed in such a negative way despite so many people enjoying what they produce. The song never feels overly preachy and Cameron is smart enough to present the subject matter in his classic tongue-in-cheek way while also sounding sincere with it.
The same can also be said about what I think is the best song on here, and arguably one of Alex Cameron’s best period, “Bad for the Boys.” The song takes a look at the “good ol’ boys” who are failing to adapt to modern society. It very much feels like a look at the kind of characters that Cameron was satirizing on Forced Witness but instead of writing from their perspective, he writes as an outsider looking in on them. The production is classic 70s/80s piano rock and Cameron’s storytelling is top notch. He gives insight into each of the “boys” in the song and describes them as people we certainly all have encountered before.
While these moments are excellent asides, the main focus on this album truly is Alex Cameron. Whether it be his own personal struggles or his relationship with his girlfriend, this album is certainly meant to be a snapshot into how he is feeling now. The title track “Miami Memory” is an excellent example of this, going graphically into Cameron’s romantic relationship with his partner. Cameron describes everything from getting a “cellulite massage and cocktails” to eating her ass “like an oyster” and how she “came like tsunami.” Even with the goofiness on full display, the track is incredibly sincere and feels like a true expression of love from Cameron. The synthy production mixed with Roy Molloy’s saxophone work makes this feel classic while also being one of his most personal songs.
This is certainly also the case for the other single from this album “Divorce,” which shows the relationship from another perspective. I do not see this track as actually being about divorce, it comes across as more reflecting the feeling of a relationship at its lowest point. It captures the feeling of seeing the end of a relationship but not actually wanting to break it off yourself. Also, fans of Springsteen get ready because this is probably the closest Cameron gets to replicating his sound on this album.
Then we have songs like “End of Nigh” that sees Cameron looking inward at his own struggles with substance abuse. Again, it is hard to say what here is taken for his own personal experiences but it certainly sounds like it is coming from a place close to him. The track is incredibly sad, painting death as a better alternative to sobriety and does not really leave off on a positive note. Instead the song ends with him getting drunk again, to the disappointment of his partner. He ends the song with the haunting lines “Making sure I’m high/Just in case the end is nigh.”
I think the closing track “Too Far” is a great example of insecurity, even in what is a seemingly secure relationship. The song plays with the idea of paranoia that your partner has lingering feelings for their ex and how that thought can really eat at your mind. Cameron ends the song with a beautiful spoken word passage that beautifully explains his love for his partner and how despite his own insecurities, he knows she makes his life better and her exes were insane for letting someone so wonderful get away from them. It is not only the perfect way to end this song but also end this entire album.
While I am not ready to say this is quite at the same level as Forced Witness, there are a few moments like “Other Ladies” that do not reach the bar set by the standout tracks, I will say this makes an excellent companion to that album. Certainly a more vulnerable look at Alex Cameron as a person while still maintaining the production ad songwriting that made me love him in the first place. Fans of Cameron will love this and if you have not heard him before, this would not be a terrible place to start.
Best Tracks: Miami Memory, Far From Born Again, Bad for the Boys, End is Nigh, Divorce, Too Far
Worst Track: Other Ladies