ALBUM REVIEW: Alex Cameron, Oxy Music
Updated: Jun 28, 2022
A few years ago, Alex Cameron was an artist that I was absolutely obsessed with. I was particularly fucking with Forced Witness and Miami Memory, his 2nd and 3rd albums respectfully. This is music that never ceased to make me laugh on a personal level, whether it be the catfish romance story of “True Lies” or the pseudo-patriotic send up “Politics of Love”. I was dating a girl for a little bit and I always loved to play her music I listened to, and I remember her cracking up to the lyrics “they made a meme out of my legacy darling” from the Angel Olsen duet “Stranger’s Kisses”. As I kept playing her more of his music in sequence, we got about five songs in and she was like “alright enough, I get it.” While I found Cameron’s gimmick to be endlessly fascinating, it had limited appeal to her. I never thought I’d see eye to eye with her on that until listening to his fourth studio effort, called Oxy Music.
Oxy Music is an album out of creative spins on an interesting formula. On the previous album, popular cuts like “Miami Memory” and “Far From Born Again” were absolutely game changing, and still are. The latter is an unpatronizing ode to s** workers; it’s funny yet oddly moving and well performed. It’s a song I’d use to convince a misogynistic asshole to change their ways, because it bathes in sleaze while still rejecting it. Some of the deeper cuts lost my attention a little, but overall the project still stands as one of my favorite modern rock records. Oxy Music embodies everything I disliked about his previous albums’ deep cuts, in that it has a clever conceit but no bite. The opening track “Best Life” has that same modern culture-skewering attitude of something off Forced Witness, but the references feel out-of-touch. “I woke up like this”, “did a thing”, and even the whole “best life” phrase are all so 2019. It’s like for the first time in his career, he’s saying “get a load of this guy”, and I’m saying it right back to him.
It’s mostly so shrug-worthy and obvious that it’s hard to really relate. “I’m a chopstick dripping in mayonnaise” from “Breakdown” is a horrible comparison even from Cameron’s irony-poisoned standards. Meanwhile, I thought maybe I’d be in for some old time fun on “Cancel Culture”, but it’s just this really strange marriage of ‘80s pop and rap that comes across more awkward than funny or insightful. This is by far his most disjointed record, both from a stylistic standpoint and in concept. It’s called Oxy Music, a clear play on words referencing both art-pop legends Roxy Music and the painkiller oxycodone, but it does nothing to honor the group or criticize the drug with a good song. Sure, “Prescription Refill” takes a stab at doing both, but misses the mark with a forgettable chorus and a mild instrumental. The best songs, in my opinion, have nothing to do with Roxy Music or pharmaceuticals. “Sara Jo” is a single I didn’t think much of upon release, but in the context of the record, it’s like a life raft. “Who told my brother that his kids were gonna die from this vaccine?” he questions on the chorus, “who told my father that he doesn’t have to pay for counseling?” This is what he does best, lulling us into a soft sock safe space then hitting us over the head with a hilarious one-liner. By the end, I’m laughing, singing alone and getting chills, that’s what Alex Cameron is able to do that no one else can.
The single “K Hole” is not quite as shocking or raunchy as something off a Forced Witness, because he’s no longer playing a character with a shield of artistic expression. He can’t be singing about “The D*wn Syndr*** J** from the real estate crew” anymore, but he’s still got some sting left in him. Over lush electric guitars and yacht rock drums, he sings about doing too much ketamine and being disoriented wondering if he “said c*nt in a song.” The hook is solid, his voice sounds velvety, and it has some good little moments. Meanwhile, “Hold The Line” sounds like an illicit-drug using male version of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria”. Again, it’s not really about prescription drugs like I assumed it would be, so not really on theme but still very enjoyable and deeply sad. “They’re telling me to hold the line, but these lines have got a hold on me” is a super clever turn-of-phrase that calls back to some of his best work. I wish I could say the same about the title track, but the feature from Jason Williamson is just plain annoying and unnecessary. I came here for Alex Cameron not Sleaford Mods, the marriage of these two sounds doesn’t work for me at all.
So to sum up my thoughts, I have a lot of issues with Oxy Music. The songs that are on theme with the general concept are either awkward, boring, badly written or some combination of all three. The tracks I like either have nothing or very little to do with the concept, and are few and far between. His schtick wouldn’t have gotten old for me if he had been able to combine great songwriting and performances with a consistent through line, but that simply didn’t occur here. Instead, we get his worst record yet. Sorry Alex, I hope you don’t read this. I want to interview you in the future because I love your artistry, this one simply just wasn’t it for me.