casiotone for the painfully alone [2009]

Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA
21 July 2009

Owen Ashworth is happy.

It’s been three years since Casiotone For The Painfully Alone’s last full length release. Which means that tonight’s show is the first time in the last three or four shows of his that I’ll be hearing a full album’s worth of new material.

I’m somewhat excited.

Owen Ashworth is a man seemingly designed for huggability. He may not be aware of this fact, or he may be aware, but nonplussed by it. It’s really a moot point.

What does this have to do with him being happy, or his music, you ask? Well, you’re really in no position to be asking such questions – just be thankful I’m not waxing poetic about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Ashworth has spent more than a decade recording and performing behind his many keyboards, cables and knobs. He sways, he lurches, he fiddles incessantly with the instruments of his art. He is the mad scientist of a subtly-grand, aurally-experimental laboratory.

Something has changed, though. His movements have seemingly become more fluid, less confined. They no longer simply accompany the music he creates – they celebrate it. I believe I would go as far as to say that he actually danced Tuesday night. Danced. I resist the implication that I actually know Ashworth on any meaningful level or that I have somehow glimpsed within his soul, but based on what I observed on this night, I’m willing to repeat a bold statement:

Owen Ashworth is happy.

Of course “happy” for Ashworth does not mean the sudden emergence of twee pop. There will be no Stuart Murdoch guest vocals. There will be no brightly-colored costumes. His energy has changed. The mood of his music, for the most part, has not.

And the new album? Vs. Children? Fantastic. He somewhat disappointedly did not play all of its songs (no “Northfield, MN”, really?), but those he did perform were welcomed enthusiastically by the packed-in fans. With a clear move to expanded instrumentation (and greater use of backup vocals) on this new album, I had been hoping for additional touring members, but this was likely decided by financial considerations rather than artistic, unfortunately (and understandably).

So all hail a new direction for Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. All hail the happy. All hail the dance.