Thursday, 5 March 2009

ALBUM REVIEW: Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Advance Base Battery Life

It’s difficult not to sympathise with Owen Asbury. Instead of striding, he shuffles; instead of triumphing, he fails; and instead of letting it all go, he bludgeons his confidence with self-doubt and loathing. Yet, when love’s vacuous jaws have gnarled on the heart and spat it out like a compassionless beast, Ashbury’s maudlin trinkets transform as a back-patting sanctuary for the abandoned. Suddenly, this is a man who knows exactly how you feel - a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone [CFTPA], if you will.

But any tortured romantic eagerly anticipating the return of Ashbury and his lovelorn laments is about to be sorely disappointed. His latest LP Advanced Base Battery Life is no spanking new CFTPA release. Rather, it’s a languid assortment of rehashed singles, re-traipsed B-sides and oddly re-jigged Springsteen classics. Nae quite an album for soothing broken souls, then; more a record label’s stroll down memory lane.

The problem with memories is they’re often better left to the past. Dressing up the wonderful ‘Lesley Gore On the T.A.M.I Show’ with a constellation of synth and Jenny Herbinson’s cottoned tones may varnish the familiar, but drop in a frayed entanglement of collector only demos and the record diminishes as a wallet opening compendium. Sure, scratchy renditions of The Boss’s ‘Born In The USA’ and ‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ meddle gamefully alongside a fuzz-drenched [Paul Simon's] ‘Graceland’, yet when pitted against ‘Holly Hobby’’s chime riddled splendour they toil as underdeveloped bedroom jams.

Admittedly, moments of wonderment can be slurped from this well of dissatisfaction: a creaky acoustic melody and crackled vocal trickle like tear droplets down the beatific ‘It’s A Crime’, and the gyrating R&B rhythm of Missy Elliot’s ‘Hot Boyz’ is smothered in Ashbury’s gleefully sardonic rumbling and the lascivious purr of Katy Davidson [Dear Nora]. While ‘White Corrolla‘’s twinkling keys and shoulder slooped mew resonate with a crispness that stretches beyond the original’s scuffled timidity and into a sparkling, cherry-popped glitter of melody

But gleaming parts are few in a sum that equates to just another shoddily contrived dust-racking compilation. Essentially, Advance Base Battery Life is a record that offers little to seasoned CFTPAers and even less to those of unaccustomed lugs. The solitude of narration that seizes Ashbury’s full-length recordings has been reduced to a cluster of underwhelming off-cuts that lack direction or purpose. And that’s a crying shame because, really, this is a man who’s capable of so much more.

Sympathy, once again.

No comments: