Alex Cameron

Jumping the Shark

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"I ain't every man I wanted to be," Alex Cameron sings on Jumping the Shark, but over the course of the album, he's more than a few. Cameron's solo debut album introduces him as a meta-singer/songwriter: though he's best known as a member of the electronic pop trio Seekae, in Jumping the Shark's world, he's a down-on-his-luck performer with a saxophone player and "business partner" named Roy Molloy. Cameron uses this theatricality to sell Shark's portraits of failure, capturing them with a complex mix of humor, beauty, and poignancy. Cameron commits to his characters and moods completely, sketching them with stark, warts-and-all sounds and lyrics. Jumping the Shark's tinny keyboards and beats could be ancient presets, but also sound oddly timeless as they move from shabby to almost noble at a moment's notice: on songs like the bittersweet anthem "Take Care of Business," Cameron uses little more than some well-placed synth washes to turn the titular chorus from innuendo to a plea. Meanwhile, his storytelling is remarkably sophisticated, filled with the depth and empathy of a much more seasoned singer/songwriter. At times, his songs recall those of Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel -- if they happened to be backed by Suicide. On "The Comeback," Cameron portrays a washed-up TV personality with a mix of bitterness and earnestness that's equally humorous and heartbreaking, with clunky keyboard stabs echoing his mounting desperation as he insists, "We're gonna get my show back!" Some of Jumping the Shark's characters try to escape failure, such as the unemployed businessman of "Happy Ending," a song that trails off like an unfinished sentence filled with things left unsaid; others rush toward it, like the anxiously bragging couple on "Real Bad Lookin'," whose ugly emotions are matched by a kitschy oompah beat. Jumping the Shark isn't completely pathetic, however, and more detached songs like "She's Mine" and "Mongrel" suggest that Cameron doesn't need to stick with the album's conceit to make compelling music. As he imbues his songs with more warmth than most synth pop and more distance than most singer/songwriters, Cameron charts his own territory on Jumping the Shark with striking and moving results.

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