Review Summary: Alex Cameron's Forced Witness is a record rare in succeeding to ask the question, "Why haven't I been forced to witness this sooner?" in self-referential form.
Have you ever woken up in the thralls of a cheeky craving, lusting for a cassette of synth-pop ballads scripted at every turn by understated absurdity in lyric form and instrumentation gleaned from the genre’s golden age" Nah, neither have I and yet never has such an unrealized union been so delightfully enamelled once fed through the teeth of Alex Cameron and the pipes therein rusted over with a strange intensity for Bruce Springsteen and wit-winked narratives. In truth, it’s never quite clear where the line begins and ends between his own experiences and his imagination’s fancy, when the words he writes them with include references to “feeling like Marlon Brando circa 1999” as a justification for punching a potential love interest's boyfriend and “waking up from a dirty wet dream with a lap full of cum and a head full of steam” as a homeless man. However ambiguous the margin, there is little doubt for the man’s gift for parceling the absurdity into already marbled textures of the 80’s; a kind of instrumentation that once coupled, provides an eerily natural backing to his character portraits. One reviewer described this record's charm with the words, “if Tommy Wiseau made Kaputt”- and if that provides far too incomplete a valuation for its worth, he finished the quip with “and it’s the best pop album I’ve heard in years.”
Just as interesting as the archetypes he paints on the marionette of each song, are the strings that pattern them towards stately dances. Rascally saxophone solos poke their weave into them at every occasion a seamstress could ask, whilst consistently considered synths provide ample cordage to strengthen the thread. What is admirable is no matter whatever talent he’s granted and whichever session musicians he brings to the forefront, the song writing never suffers from straying from a plateau of neon-lit goodness. Each tune positively begs to be fleshed out as tastefully as a mandarin rind and heard alongside a populated Las Vegas strip to remind everyone of the undercutting grace, humour and appetite that marinates every aspect around them to their immediate benefaction. Soft all the while, do these elements stew before one realizes that belying the heart and soul of this record is a self-aware romanticism that falls into an oft tragic and boisterous masculine ego, further anchored between the rip-roaring rushes of love inked in mafia-like escapades to more deplorable counterparts, like loving women online with beautiful eyes who could also possibly be Nigerian guys. The irony otherwise prescient in Cameron’s words disarm the harrowing emotions that issue them, seemingly as a comic relief for an audience he desperately wants to knead into a well-rounded mood.
I can’t find much wrong with this record other than Alex’s baritone sometimes lacking anything more than a sultry and mannerly delivery which is in part matched by an instrumental backing that seldom sits further in its possible range. Yet even though this consideration does corral the quality of this record from reaching higher peaks, it does not detract it from the foundations that keep the footing sure underneath. Ultimately, it is a passage into the lining of one man’s imagination, figured with a palate and brush of words and voice, then framed with a lacquer of welcoming flavours in a way that might just keep the paint longer from its eventual craquelure. Enjoy with ease.