Album Reviews

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Advance Base Battery Life

(Tomlab) UK release date: 9 February 2009

Jenny Herbinson (fromScattered Pearls) provides lead vocals on Lesley Gore on the TAMIShow – another corker, with a particularly exuberant electronic riff, andagain on White Corolla (everyday tales of broken down cars, phones that gostraight to voicemail, waiting in Laundromats, but lifted from mundanity bytheir sparky musical setting).

Several cover versions are included, most of which are againcollaborative efforts. These are the least successful inclusionson the album, but provide an interesting insight into Ashworth’s musical tastes.

This being the case, he’s clearly keen onBruce Springsteen, since two of The Boss’s tracks are covered. BornIn The USA wins points for the likelihood of itdistressing po-faced Springsteen fanboys and being a strange, vocoder-heavyand virtually unrecognisable version, while Streets Of Philadelphia,conversely, is almost too similar to the original to have been worth doing.

Both of these also feature Cover who, incidentally, isAshworth’s brother. Dear Nora (a.k.a. Katy Davison) provides adetached, almost bored-sounding vocal for Missy Elliott‘s Hot Boyzraunchfest. Then there’s a version of Paul Simon‘s Graceland thatremoves the joyful afrobeat lilt and replaces it with a lifeless drone.It’s disappointing.

Most enjoyable, however, are those tracks that could be described as thestraightforward Casiotone tracks. Notable amongst these is White OnWhite. It’s a heart-rending tale with strangulated vocal, which saves its stingfor the very end, when the lines “All the rain on the day that you died /I’ve never seen the reservoir so high / I guess this is as close as it getsto goodbye” tell you that he has been singing about dreaming about adeceased friend or perhaps lover.

Holly Hobby is a little heavy-handed,but another favourite is the lovelorn, countrified It’s A Crime,with Ashworth making a surprisingly convincing lonesome cowboy, to acousticguitar accompaniment. Missoula and The Only Way To Cry are both more sketches/poems/doodlesthan fully realised songs, with the former working better than the latter.

The album draws to its close with Sunday St, a reallong-dark-night-of-the-soul track that sees the narrator coming through andout the other side, followed by the instrumental Voice Of The Hospital,featuring sparkly, shimmery electronic sounds, in a pitch just short ofshrill, that provides a nice (albeit short) outro to proceedings.

Ashworth might have been better dropping a couple ofthe covers and squeezing in a few more originals. And original isprobably an apposite word here, as this album effectively illustrates theoriginal voice and appeal of a musician who does indeed always comeacross, despite the multiple collaborations, as sometimes painfullyalone.

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