Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Advance Base Battery Life

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Advance Base Battery Life

Tomlab, 2009

With bouncy beats lying beneath mellow, comforting synthesizer melodies and accompaniment, Owen Ashworth's Casiotone for the Painfully Alone gives one the feeling of being in the company of a sympathetic friend in a moment of heartbreak, loneliness, or any number of other disappointments. Ashworth's lyrics and music can play an important role for listeners caught in these situations. While the topic matter is generally sad and melancholy, they are not meant for dwelling and brooding in misery. Themes of loss (“White on White”), nostalgia (“Old Panda Days”), and simple disappointments (“White Corolla”), all leave his audience with a feeling of determination (best exemplified in “Sunday St.” or “Lonesome New Mexico Nights”).

Advance Base Battery Life, being a collection of singles and other non-album tracks from 2004 to 2007, it runs through a number of different moments in Ashworth's career. The disc features a re-envisioning of a song from 2001's Pocket Symphonies for Lonesome Subway Cars (“Lesley Gore on the T.A.M.I. Show”) and other songs which hint at the sound present on his first three albums (“Missoula,” “The Only Way to Cry,” and “Voice of the Hospital”). However, a large portion of the album also shows the direction Ashworth has taken since 2003's Twinkle Echo, including a different version of “Holly Hobby,” which also appears on 2006's Etiquette. And all points in-between are covered. In addition to the plain Casiotone tracks are his recent collaborations, such as one song performed with the Donkeys (“It's a Crime”).

Ashworth's synthesizers are usually understated, sometimes simply acting as accompaniment for the words being sung, sometimes providing a number of catchy melodies and hooks, in and of themselves. Ashworth's singing is often delivered with a “what-else-can-I-say” attitude, reflecting the states-of-mind of the characters in his songs. One might think, initially, that it was simply “blasé;” but, in fact, the inflections are important to convey Ashworth's message. One of the great things about this collection is how it runs a lengthy gamut of the different moods of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Here, you can find fun, commiseration, and the kind of relief you might normally get from old friends.

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