Review Summary: proof that ashworth's merit as an artist is not founded on careful construction or cohesion, but the distinct personality of his work, which the mediocre etiquette does its best to diminish.
prior to etiquette, owen ashworth's pop outlet casiotone for the painfully alone used bedroom production, a mixture of keyboard loops and a half melodic mumble to relate intimately personal narratives in a detached manner. the juxtaposition of catchy pop hooks backed by lo-fi electropop with ashworth's depressed lyricism and (sometimes polarizing) dry vocal delivery makes for music that, with the expection of a few unnecessarily abrasive songs, is as enjoyable to listen to as it is moving.
etiquette is ashworth's first attempt at a transition to more conventional studio production. don't confuse this review for the ramblings of a lo-fi purist protesting an artist's transition to more conventional methods of production, however; etiquette's high points (particularly 'i love creedence', 'nashville parthenon' and 'bobby malone moves home') are of classic casiotone quality, proving that the production itself is not a flaw of etiquette's.
ashworth's merit as an artist is not founded on careful construction or cohesion but the distinct personality of his work, as the mediocre etiquette demonstrates. his fourth album as casiotone does its best to diminish everything distinct about his earlier work. several songs don't even sound like casiotone songs and a disproportionate amount of the ones that do are simple not enjoyable to listen to. on 'bobby malone moves home', ashworth sings 'so you tried your own route / and it didn't work out', inadvertently summarizing etiquette as an album.
the problem with etiquette isn't that it's a departure from lo-fi production, but that it sounds like a painfully mediocre imitation of the original casiotone that lacks sincerity. in trying to create a more distinct sound for casiotone, etiquette sacrifices the distinct sound that made earlier albums of ashworth's so interesting.