Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
This is the last we'll hear of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. After 13 some years of writing songs about everyday miseries, Owen Ashworth is retiring the name and moving on to other musical projects. It's one of the most intriguing swan songs anyone's ever had and you could certainly argue that, as everyday miseries go, he took us to the nerve with his last record. It goes to the nerve and then the knife continues to the bone, cutting and cutting until all of the pain is staring at us. It's right there and you can touch it. You can see the crusted streaks of tears on his characters faces. He's always inked those in. Below the expressive and detailed monotone that Ashworth made his name with, his songs have been consistently flush with riches. They have come equipped with complications and complexities that seem impossible to write so eloquently and so personally without having been through them, without having lived with them on us, like horrible, rotting shadows. Ashworth, we hope, did not experience the half of what he writes about on his five full-length albums and countless EPs, 7-inches, splits and singles. He would be horribly dysfunctional. There is most certainly nothing at all wrong with someone who enjoys a good sad story. There are enough examples of them to go around and Casiotone For The Painfully Alone records are examples of the epic struggles that a lot of people go through only to wind up dead in the end anyway. It's a morbid and short-sighted way to think about the depressions brought on, the sadness intake that some of us choose to experience, but it's a cozy territory for Ashworth - his sweet spot.
"Vs. Children" could be Ashworth's masterwork as Casiotone, as the subject matter hurts. It hurts and it hurts and it hurts and all that really means for us listeners is that Ashworth is able to give and give and give. It's an abundance, an avalanche of the dark, curtained poetry that he brings to life, as it pours out of him like syrup and marbles, a thick and bumpy liquid that we aren't sure what to make of. The album has a central theme of pregnancies fucking up lives or fucked up lives being threatened by the burden of a possible baby or a pregnancy scare or just of the fucked up lives regardless of the babies that happen to rear their cute faces. There are fights, most of them brought on by those sudden moments of pure panic that can come when those periods are being missed and those pregnancy tests are giving you the news that you never wanted and weren't expecting. "Killers" is a song about a morning after pill and Ashworth sings the petrified words of a boy who doesn't want to be a father, "Oh my God/What if we had an accident/Oh my God/Til you're dead/that's how long you're a parent/Til you're dead/You know I meant what I said/I think you'll be a good mother/But honey look at us now/We barely support each other." There's a remembrance in "Natural Light," of a conversation, in a previous relationship, where having a baby was the focus of a serious discussion. Ashworth sings, "What if we'd had the kid/I guess he'd be 15," and it comes out of him with a form of nonchalance - only because it feels like a bullet was dodged. The thought of there being a child in the world, that was theirs, that was a few years on at being a veteran teenager, is enough to scare the shit out of anyone who would give anything to not be a parent RIGHT NOW. The album ends with Ashworth repeatedly singing, "To stay the same/To never change/To stay the same/To never change…" It's written as a mantra, as a wish, but the response to that will always be, in a booming, invisible voice, "Tough shit."