Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
Advance Base Battery Life
I once found an artist’s sketch notebook outside a Bank Of Ireland on Wexford Street. Perusing it was an incomparably bewitching experience, offering a tantalizing insight into the mechanics of a stranger’s mind that I’d probably never see fully rendered. Where Owen Ashworth’s Casiotone For The Painfully Alone project often recalls reading a dear friend’s diary or an exercise copy of short story ideas, this stopgap rarities release almost exactly replicates that same appetency the artist’s notebook stoked up.
Ashworth is both a painter of poignant portraits and a cripplingly accurate character actor. Rather than shoot clear-focussed photographs of hearts breaking in two or a teardrop running down the face of a man alone in the cinema he employs the soft-edged daub of nostalgia to make his emotional narratives all the more potent- fuzzy like the sine waves from his mewing vintage keyboard speakers. Acutely aware of his own miserablist tendencies he hones his schmaltz rather than waltzing around it. Thus when he whispers “I’ve been searching this town and all I have found/Are nights of bad sex with stupid boyfriends I shouldn’t have kept” on ‘Old Panda Days’ it’s a gilt-edged Morriseyist treat rather than a guilty-pleasure Bright Eyes trick.
Picking up Advance Base Battery Life, however, is a most unrecommendable idea. Like the chanced-upon sketchbook it offers only frustrating insights into possible masterworks, stick-figure men where Michaelangelo’s David might one day stand erect. ‘Holly Hobby’, the collection’s most heart-rending rendition is available in even more grievous glory on the excellent Etiquette album, and the sumptuous covers of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born In The USA’ and ‘Streets of Philadelphia’, along with Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and Missy Elliot’s ‘Hot Boyz’, are available as freebies elsewhere. If you need to ready your tear ducts for the tear-fest this year’s forthcoming Vs. Children album will undoubtedly be revisit Etiquette or Twinkle Echo in the meantime, and stock up on the Kleenex Man-Sizes.