I worked in a record store in northern California for a couple of years, and it was around this time that I truly opened up my mind to all different kinds of music.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Alex De Vore? Open-minded?”
Well, it’s true. I’ll give anything a listen once. Except for popular country produced after 1978. I’m sorry, it’s just bad.
At any rate, while working in this record store, all these scene queen girls (you know the type—oversized sunglasses, asymmetrical haircuts, they think they invented music because they just discovered Neutral Milk Hotel) started coming in and buying this album called Etiquette by a guy named Owen Ashworth, aka Chicago’s Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Usually, I would regard any album bought by a cookie-cutter little girl as trash right off the bat, but I had resolved to check out new things.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is the kind of musical project I usually refer to as “one of those musical projects”—paint-by-numbers, self-indulgent indie rock. All Ashworth seems to be capable of is mixing lo-fi keyboard with the same tired beat, not to mention creating pretentious album titles like Pocket Symphonies for Subway Cars and pretentious song titles like “Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in a Green Cotton Sweater” or “Calloused Fingers Won’t Make You Strong Edith Wong.”
“This would be fantastic!” I thought. “If I wasn’t too fat to wear girl pants and I listened to music wrong.”
All of that aside, I decided to go check him out at Meow Wolf on July 27. I figured that perhaps he had matured as a songwriter or, at the very least, might have a song or two I would like. How wrong I was.
The show opened with Concern who, coincidentally, is Ashworth’s younger brother, Gordon. I absolutely hate going to a show to watch someone who calls himself a musician stand quietly while he tweaks knobs. If that’s your thing, fine, but at least have some showmanship.
Concern began his set by mumbling, “I’m…umm…I’m gonna play some music now.” He then proceeded to play a sample of the sound of rainfall, and my eyeballs rolled so far back into my head it hurt. The sample was followed by one long, drawn-out, loud note that seemed to go on forever. Around five minutes to be precise. Is it fair to call one never-ending note music? No. It’s called one never-ending note and it’s boring.
What seemed like eons later, Ashworth set up and began his foray into oh-so-precious music. Each of the songs lasted 90 seconds, tops. All in attendance were hard-pressed to make out what he was saying as he abused the whisper-quiet indie-rock trend voice to cover up for not being able to sing for shit. When I returned home later, this turned out to be a good thing; once I googled his “adorable” lyrics, I was glad I hadn’t heard what he was saying. Almost every song I checked out subscribed to the “God, I have to rhyme or it’s not a song!” mentality, which limits one to silly words and convoluted syntax in order to do so (for example, from “Dying Batteries,” “Before you let the room go to ice/I remind you that the song on the radio is nice”).
Playing awful music seems to be a family affair for the Ashworths. Listen away, hipster masses. Keep these guys in your pocket: You can use them later during a “can’t believe I liked that tripe” conversation once you’ve heard a good band or two.