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Album Review
Advance Base Battery Life

Advance Base Battery Life
by Casiotone For The Painfully Alone


Review Date
9th November 2009
Reviewed by
Hayley Koorts

It seems that nowadays being part of any loosely-labelled indie band means doubling as an art student with a penchant for offbeat animation. The one-time film student Owen Ashworth and his musical project, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, is no exception. The Californian native’s melancholic medley of crude electro beats, art-pop sentiments and dead-pan lyrical delivery twist into a dreary yet charming ensemble, splattered with self-indulgent experimentation and simplified arrangement.

Advance Base Battery Life is a woe-is-me accumulation of all the insecure moments that Owen has suffered through in his life, from witnessing the love of his life choose another (“It’s a crime that you’re kissing on that girl for all to see/and it’s a crime that she’s going home with you and not with me”), to loving another from afar (“I think of things that I wanted to say/when I ride by almost every day/but you’ll probably never have a clue/coz I’ll never say these things to you”). Also served up on the side are some of his introspective musings on urban chivalry.

The lack of editing and over-polished production allows the songs to retain their spontaneity. I even began to really like the fact that half the album sounds like it was recorded as a joke after a fluid night out. The tongue-in-cheek track “Hot Boys” is a standout favourite of mine, clearly poking fun at the crass and vapid state of the commercial hip-hop scene. It makes me think that the guy doesn’t take his “artistic personage” too seriously and is okay with having fun at our expense. That earns him brownie points and makes him a lot cooler than his self-absorbed comrades who believe that they’re commandeering the next musical revolution...

Strokes of brilliance seep through on the brief stint “The Only Way to Cry”, encompassing in all its sparseness the isolation and anguish of one lonely soul. Often I find it’s the ability to convey an overwhelming emotion – whatever it may be – with an underwhelming amount of words that weeds the Hallmark card writers from the poets. And that is exactly what occurs in this minimalistic, forty-six second track, which says a lot about the breakdown of human interaction in the modern world.

At times the sound is murky, plagued with lo-fi distortion and creaking with all the character of a decrepit old mansion. At others, it sounds like a corny robot disco, possibly composed by a smitten R2D2. The nature of working solo allows you to bathe in the excess of your own musical tangents, and I really am left with the impression that Mr. Casiotone is really not at all concerned about what his audience has to say. His musical purpose may be selfish, but I respect him all the more for rejecting compromise and keeping his quirky, oddball ways. I’m intrigued to see how such an introverted artist communicates on stage – lucky for me he’s made time in his busy schedule to squeeze in a four-gig tour, kicking off in Dunedin on November 17th.

Memorable Lyric: “A man goes to the movies and buys every seat in the house/He watches the movie alone and he cries in the darkness till the end credits roll”

Sounds Like: An (even more) emotionally bruised Conor Oberst coating ecstatic pop songs in a lyrical blanket of gloom.

Listen to While: Turning your back on the world and losing your faith in humanity.

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