Photo by Hannah Persson
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Better Than: Slitting your wrists
It's hard to say whether or not it's really a wise idea to catch Casiotone for the Painfully Alone while plunged into the proverbial depths of despair. On the one hand, it's kinda heartening to see that no matter how bad you've got it, someone else has it a whole lot worse. On the other, there's a chance that compounding the sadness might just drive you to drink far more than the recommended dosage for suicide. Then again, there's that whole commiseration thing, and you know what they say about misery and company.
Still, somber generally does tend to beget more somber, no matter how much Johnson's Baby Shampoo you use. And that's the paradox behind Casiotone's melancholy culling: it's sad to the point of no more tears.
As anyone who read last year's piece on him knows,
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is one Owen Ashworth, a Cali-born,
Chicago-based brooder who's made a career out of singing nothing but
sad songs. On that last occasion he was in South Florida, Ashworth
played White Room, where he had a packed house of indie hipsters crying
in their cleats.
This go 'round Ashworth chose to stage at the
brand new (O.H.W.O.W.) Bar. And though there was a healthy contingent
of indie hipsters present at this re-creation of songs too; there was
also a heaping helping of art crowd insiders. That neither attending
camp are of the type to even admit to sentiment, let alone show it, is
either testament to Ashworth's ever-growing allure, or the whole damn
Mainland came down with a mad case of the sads and needed some kinda
cure-all. Whatever it was, Ashworth played a set long enough to read
the whole of Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, and, unlike most club shows, the crowd actually increased the more he sang.
exactly did he sing, you ask? Hmmm. That's a tough one. Not that all of
the sad songs sound the same, mind you (though they certainly are of
the same strain). It's just that after awhile you become more immersed
in the atmosphere created when they're all sung together at a single
stand. And keeping track of titles would really wreck the effect.
I do seem to recall that Ashworth performed "Young Shields" and "Bobby
Malone Moves Home" (off '06's Etiquette). And there's a good chance I
heard "The Only Way to Cry" (off '09's Advance Base Battery Life).
But I can't be sure. Just as I couldn't tell you whether or not I
really heard "Tonight Was a Disaster" or I was simply preoccupied in my
own personal drama. Yes, the songs speak that personally.
of those songs though, whichever ones they were, to say they are all
soundtracks for potential suicides would really be missing the point.
Sure, Ashworth more often than not errs on the side of the sullen. And
yes, many a shut-in would find great favor in the adamant loneliness.
But, as I've said before, there's also a tinge of hopefulness here. And
taken as prescribed, Ashworth's catalog might just cure heartbreak
after all. It's certainly strong enough to serve as some kinda antidote
to whatever ails those foolish enough to fall for another in the first
If I've one objection to last Friday night's appearance,
it's that it wasn't Valentine's Day, because that's when his tonic
really would come in handy.
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Personal Bias: I think I once killed myself to "Don't They Have Payphones Wherever You Were Last Night."
Random Detail: (O.H.W.O.W.) Bar puts the bands on early and on time. What a novel (and welcome) concept!
By the Way: Like last year, Ashworth's appearance was part of an extended Florida-only tour. Gainesville and Tallahassee are still to come.