Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone / Etiquette / Rating: 7.7

“Couldn't he make something even less rickety, something pitch-perfect enough to tell those stories more widely-- just as Morrissey, one of his models, once did? For now, he sounds in between: Etiquette gives up the homemade purity of Casiotone's first few records, but it hasn't entirely gotten where it's going, either.”

PFM writer Nitsuh Abebe needs to go back and listen to a few Smiths records; Morrissey was, is, and never will be pitch-perfect and no I am not talking about being me. I am talking about holding a note without going flat. And then the above quote found in the closing statement of the PFM review makes me think that the writer had nothing to do with the 7.7 rating the music was given at the top of the computer screen. There isn’t much about this review that says he/PFM likes this record and instead the reader is told about this particular music journalist’s shallow summaries of what is indie / life in your mid 20’s and what Casiotone was aiming for.

I love it when a writer assumes they know exactly what a musician was thinking when he or she wrote a song or what direction an artist is suppose to move in. Where exactly does PFM think Casiotone for the painfully alone should be heading? His songs are longer, more developed, and his once more limiting style of pure Casio has been embellished with more instrumentation.

Etiquette is proof of this artist’s evolution.

PFM says “The brief (30-minute) Etiquette is a step forward for him, musically-- it complicates things, cleans them up, brings in contributions from his friends, and even conjures up some Postal Service sheen.”


“A lot of Ashworth's songs are two minutes and two verses long: Act One and Act Two of some tale or other about middle-class 20-something kids doing cruddy everyday middle-class 20-something stuff. It's to his credit that he's not looking to romanticize that stuff. Most of his time is spent doing the opposite: cutting back to the plainness of reality, the lack of romance.”

Story telling found in song form and released on an indie label doesn’t automatically make this a record 100% representing life as college student indie rocker and while I am at it Ben Gibbard of Postal Service / Death Cab fame did not give birth to the art of a narrative song. If we want to parallel an artist to Casiotone Bill Callahan of Smog (mid 90's Smog in sad clown oily face paint) is a better place to start. Destroyer, Silver Jews, and East River Pipe channeled through OMD are all also more adequate parallels in sound.

Really, enough with the Postal Service angle, indie-tronica is older than and was not invented by them.

FYI: Film student drop out Mr Casiotone’s is nearly 30 now and instead of guessing what is songs are about,
Another good quote from Casiotone: “The characters are almost always fictional, but the songs are often inspired by real people or events. I have no qualms with steal my friend's stories, but I don't feel any obligation to stick to the truth. I'd rather the songs be interesting and evocative than be real or true or whatever. They just have to feel honest. When I was a kid and I'd hear a song that really affected me, I never assumed that the song was a true story. I just assumed that the singer was a really great songwriter. It just never occurred to me that I had to tell true stories to write good songs.”

The lyrics of each song tell a different tale, not just something fit for a college kid but more accurately they mirror life as an average human. More surprising to me is Owen’s ability to dispense short stories from not just a male but a female perspective ("Scattered Pearls", "Cold White Christmas", "Love Connection"). I had to check the liner notes to make sure there wasn’t a female co-writer and this is a nice reminder that many of our everyday thoughts do not just belong to one sex, age group, or financial bracket… these are just quick flashes of life as a human. (I love the writer / poet Richard Brautigan for this same reason.) Clumsy one night stands ("New Years Kiss"), letters we may or may not have written down to old friends and family ("I love Creedence" & "Nashville Parthenon"), and snapshots of worry where the action verb is the focus not the person this emotion is aimed at.

PFM says :“All of which is pretty typical indie-- this desire to talk just like everyone else around you, and make music like you don't necessarily know any more about your instrument than they do.”


“Ashworth has set himself up to talk to people who are (presumably) just like him-- describing love and friendship as played out in crappy apartments, both for the people who live in them and the college kids soon to join. But is that it? Can he talk to anyone else?”

Typical indie? Please don’t ever assume you or anyone for that matter owns the right to define something as vague as “indie”.

Misery likes company and if this wasn’t true kids wouldn’t still buying Joy Division and Elliott Smith records. Sadness speaks volumes to many people, not just to people in their 20’s but I suppose who better but Pitchfork to ponder what it’s like to be a “typical indie” and 20 something. (Look at me, I can dish out shallow blanket statements too!)

I like this record for it’s dressed up synth simplicity, bare bone beats and its flashlight focus on life’s non firework spectacular moments. Humdrum humans have an anthem and it’s sponsored by Casio.

The PFM review fails me but the 7.7 rating will do just fine.