Review Summary: Bearded dude makes simple electronica with crappy keyboards and awkwardly personal lyrics.
Few things can be more awkward live then a one-man band, especially one whose music is as shy and emotional as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s. Watching videos of Casiotone live are almost painful, viewing Owen Ashworth, complete with strange beard and piles of electronics in front of him, address his audience through shy mumbles and uncomfortable banter is almost cringe-worthy. Even in the studio, Ashworth can hardly hide his shyness, Etiquette
is by far Casio’s most polished record (until it, Ashworth made his music entirely on dated Casio keyboards), yet it is still seems like something that was not meant to be heard by anyone else. In some regards, Etiquette is like a secret diary, deliberately left out on the table, wide open.
I Love Creedence’s
lyrics read like a lonely, very personal letter to a friend. Its writer, Creedence, describes how his relationship with a longtime friend, girlfriend and roommate, Elodie, deteriorates after she meets a boy from New Jersey overtop a cheesy drum-machine and a synthesizer loop. The chorus, a monotone vocal of “this September I'll be 26 years old/and El's the only one besides my dad/who's ever said I love you Creedence”
particularly forces empathy, as well as a sense of awkwardness, on the listener. Most of Etiquette is like this, oddly personal letters to close friends/relatives sang/spoken overtop basement electronics. Scattered Pearls
is a phone call telling Mom how Grandma’s pearl necklace broke at the Club, and how only 7 pearls could be recovered, set to the album’s most danceable beat. The lyrics are simple, but display the kind of human emotion that can only really be told through simple events. Like a few other tracks on the album, the vocals are delivered by a guest vocalist, in most cases a girl.
Cold White Christmas
marks Ashworth’s return to the microphone, and is tale of a post-grad female who moves to St. Paul seeking independence, but instead finds out the hardships of living on her own (simple things, like spending Christmas alone and working lengthy days at a fast-food restaurant). Again, simple, yet surprisingly poignant. Musically, it’s the same kind of cutesy, simple keyboard work as most of the album, but everything fits together perfectly. Etiquette’s most musically experimental moments come when Ashworth ventures out of his basement keyboard collection and utilizes instruments like piano, strings ( Bobby Malone Moves Home
is probably the best example these two) and electric guitar. Young Shields
is probably the album’s best track. Its beat, despite featuring some real instrumentation, is still heavily electronic and creates a dark, urgent atmosphere for Ashworth to deliver lyrics about being young and boundless, moving out and doing whatever one wants to do.
Etiquette, overall, is a simple record. It describes simple events in various normal people’s lives overtop simple (though more advanced then previous Casiotone releases) electronic instrumentation. It’s simple in almost every since of the word, yet so poignant and personal it’s almost uncomfortable to listen to. Ashworth’s monotone and army of cheap keyboards might be a bit too much for some listeners, but for this one, awkward as he may be, Ashworth is just fine.