Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Belatedly Discovering Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

"Why did US emo songwriter Owen Ashworth name his project Casiotone for the Painfully Alone? The origins of the band involved a set of self-imposed Dogme 95-style restrictions: every song is as short and efficient as possible. Only white keys. All songs are in the key of C. No happy songs allowed."
- David McNamee, writing for the The Guardian in 2010

Why oh why did it take me until last week to finally purchase a Castiotone for the Painfully Alone CD? The description quoted above ticks practically all of my favourite boxes:
  • Short, to-the-point songwriting? Check!
  • Reluctance to stray from the key of C major? Check!
  • Miserable as all get-out? Check!
It's like Owen Ashworth went out of his way to write songs that I personally would be sure to like. Casiotone (and subsequently Advance Base, Ashworth's current project) have been on the scene for almost twenty years, churning out catchy emo-pop and patiently waiting for me to properly investigate them.

Now that I've added Etiquette to my library, I feel sorry to have kept Mr Ashworth waiting for so long.

Etiquette is stuffed with short, sad songs that blend downbeat (yet enjoyably wry) lyrics with infectious lo-fi keyboard arrangements. Nashville Parthenon is a pretty representative highlight:

So why did it take me so long to pick up this album, which is every bit as good as I suspected it would be? It's not like I was ignorant of Casiotone's existence up until last week; on the contrary, radio introduced me to I Love Creedence (also from Etiquette) several years ago, and I *instantly* took a shine to that track.

But while I Love Creedence was the first Casiotone song I actually listened to, that wasn't the first time I'd come across its author's nom de plume. You see, teenage Joel was a regular lurker (though only an occasional poster) on the Drowned in Sound forums, and it was on those boards that I encountered the name 'Casiotone for the Painfully Alone' for the first time.

And, to be honest, the people who posted on DiS back then didn't exactly give me the best first impression. Here are some quotes from threads I found whilst sifting through the community archives:
"I want to go back and see Casiotone, and tell him 'Hey, did you know that your only good song is a rip-off of somebody else's?'"
"That name is so indie it's painful."
"I have Etiquette. New Year's Kiss is incredible, the rest is meh."
"I like the few songs I've heard but I don't fancy buying an album unless it's super cheap."
To be fair to Drowned in Sound's users (and perhaps to soothe Owen Ashworth's self-esteem, should he be reading this), there were a lot of positive comments too, but...I dunno, I guess they were drowned* out by the people criticising the songs and cringing at the name when I read that thread the first time around.

So I'd like to apologise to Owen Ashworth for failing to check out Casiotone for the Painfully Alone until long after he'd stopped performing under that name. Perhaps I'd have gotten around to you a lot sooner were it not for those few naysayers on the internet.

*No pun intended.

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