Review : Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Vs. Children
AllmusicSweeping in with the majestic title track -- a drone fanfare that swirls into the main song just so -- Casiotone for the Painfully Alone's second album of 2009 (but first that's a full album as such instead of a compilation) shows that Owen Ashworth's talent continues to pay lovely dividends. His singing is of a piece with the music, at once clearer and more conventional than ever before and still touched with the reflective spoken-to-oneself melancholy that defines his work. His ear for sharply observed details and sly comparisons similarly holds true; if it's a sign that he's long since established his métier then it's equally clear he knows how to play to his strengths. The tale of "Tom Justice, The Choir Boy Robber, Apprehended at Ace Hardware in Libertyville, IL" might seem to say everything in the title itself, but the song's lyric, telling Bonnie and Clyde reference and all, is of a much more dramatically, sadly observed bent. Musically Casiotone here fully approaches the elegant showy avant indie-pop from the U.K. in the early ,90s, rich keyboards and dramatic, downbeat chords aplenty. "Natural Light" in particular is easily a Pulp song from 1993 reset into a new context. If the barrelhouse roll of "Optimist vs. the Silent Alarm" with the concluding flourish of "When the Saints Go Marching In" seems a little out of place, the lyric about a desire to "raise a little family on Schlitz and Mickey Mouse" isn't at all. Meanwhile "Northfield MN" might be the only song yet to have both gently bouncy piano and a lyrical comparison to an exploding dye pack. Admittedly the song title "Harsh the Herald Angels Sing" pushes things on the overly clever front but the duet "Man o'War," with its downer tale of a Christmas morning, and the clever Bowie reference at the end of "Killers" are among the many reasons Vs. Children is, yet again, another stellar Casiotone album....full text
CokemachineglowEver wake up with the urge to tell all in short stories? Never want to get out of your bath? Then why in God’s name aren’t you wet for Owen Ashworth? Yes, he might have made his name by dictaphoning J. P. Donleavyisms to a keyboard, but that doesn’t stop him from being the most articulate teller of twentysomething angst to ever do battle with a beatbox. He even combed his hair for 2006’s Etiquette, swapping his trademark Casio tones for what his parents might call “proper instruments.” Believe it or not, it worked, and our man went from snack-fed bionic bedsitter to hardback flash fiction action man. Last month he worked off what could be the last of his digital urges with the Advance Base Battery Life compilation, and now it’s time to get down and dig to the vigor of Vs. Children—Casio goes criminal, toying with illegal sleaze. His latest set isn’t strictly concept, but it does consist largely of semi-fictional bandit biographies, taking in everything from death by jellyfish to altar boy bikers on crime sprees.
That’s right—altar boys, and real evil ones at that. Opening like DJ Shadow on sour grapes, “Tom Justice, The Choir Boy Robber, Apprehended at Ace Hardware in Libertyville, IL” not only has a title to make A Silver Mt. Zion shit themselves, it’s also a true based-on-a-true story. A former holy co-worker of Ashworth’s flipped out and went on the rob, cleaning out more safes than the Royal Mint’s housekeeping force before being rumbled by store detectives. “Took the money and you fled / Counted months till they found you / They had your bike, they were bound to / Twenty-six from here to home / Twenty-six, no gun, just notes / Twenty-six without a shot / That’s more than Bonnie and Clyde got.” The number is Holy Joe’s heist count, and shows that this is a new kind of loneliness being dictaphoned now: the private hedonism of gentlemen of fortune, like Ed Norton’s schizo-phoney-phrenic from Primal Fear (1996). Fittingly, the bad Yamahas and beat presets have been toned down to a more organic backing, with organs, kickdrums, and piano used to score all these idols turned sour. You might get the odd drum machine, as on “Traveling Salesman’s Young Wife Home Alone on Christmas in Montpelier, VT,” but even that soon makes way for tambourines and chapel uprights as a small town freezes for December. It’s still as soft as Snow Cake (2006), but it hasn’t detracted from Ashworth’s power to strike a chord with the almost unstrikable. He’s on another experiment gone good, pitching life as a receipt for a billion bad decisions against the extraordinary resolve of the heart, still beating when you most want it to burst. The bastard....full text
MusicomhOwen Ashworth returns as Casiotone For The Painfully Alone on Vs Children, another collection of slow-burning lo-fi tunes that trudge through the muck of interpersonal relationships, family troubles, and modern city living.
2006's Etiquette found Ashworth moving toward a warmer sound with more live instrumentation and more fidelity than earlier recordings. Vs Children takes things a tiny step further, replacing sullen drones with a bouncy keyboard every once in a while.
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