Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Etiquette (2006)

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I Love Creedence
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Etiquette (2006)

If nothing else, you had to raise a smile at the nom-de-disque which American singer-songwriter Owen Ashworth adopted. It announces its lo-fi quality, and identifies its audience at the same time.

Clever and funny. But also ineffably sad.

And the songs on this quite remarkable album -- like short stories rendered as poetry and set to simple music -- managed to be all of that.

But mostly rather sad: stories about lives which hadn't worked out; frozen moments when life changed for the worse or the protagonist recognizing it just too late . . .

Here are aching songs about a girl losing pearls from her grandmother's necklace at the disco ("Mom, don't cry they're only pearls" but of course we know that isn't why the mother is crying) and a lonely graduate in a damp room a long way from home whose life hasn't worked out ("second shift as a fry cook, that's your holiday in grease") on the beautiful Cold White Christmas.

There's an unromantic first sexual experience "not the way you'd imagined it, on a balcony with champagne lips" . . .

There is a deep and universal sadness in some of these songs which, when combined with the whole bedroom ethic of the thing, is moving and often heartbreaking.

If you don't feel your throat choke on I Love Creedence you are either too cynical or just aren't listening carefully enough to this story told by Creedence Clearwater Wright, "best friend of Elodie Eye".

In places on the album Ashworth hands vocal duties to the female voice of Jenn Herbison but this one he takes himself (although the liner notes say she is the voice of Creedence, the character singing) which renders these lines more interesting: "We laughed like we were queens, and split our ball gowns at the seams and every single time I'd dream it was only El and Me".

But when Elodie finds a boyfriend Creedence is cut off ("I swear it felt like a divorce"). The chorus is, get a hanky, "This September I'll be 26 years old and El's the only one besides my Dad who ever said 'I love you Creedence . . .' "

This is a heartbreaking story told with economy, and it's not the only one on this exceptional but much overlooked album. 

It was on the same Popfrenzy label as the wonderfully uplifting Camera Obscura, but CFTPA deliver cheaply-realised pop which relied only on a small battery of electronic instruments (Casiotone keyboards among them) and your willingness to go along for a ride which initially sounds untutored.

But over a couple of plays Etiquette reveals layers of nuance and some anguished narratives.

Extraordinary. 

These Essential Elsewhere pages deliberately point to albums which you might not have thought of, or have even heard . . .

But they might just open a door into a new kind of music, or an artist you didn't know of.

Jump in.

The deep end won't be out of your depth . . .

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