The music blog Idolator recently posted an item called “Three Indie Rock Nightmares.” My favorite: “I’m stuck in a world where indie rock has slowly transformed from amateurish, enthusiastic rock with zine-fueled anti-consumerist, small-community leanings to anonymous art-folk twaddle by musicians who can think of no greater accomplishment than getting their song into a phone ad or winning a PLUG Award. And I can’t wake up.” Sound familiar?
Fortunately, there is still Casiotone for the Painfully Alone to remind us of the intimacy of what indie rock used to be and to reassure us that change is okay. Owen Ashworth started CFPA more than ten years ago as a home-recording project, and, if the name he chose for it was tongue-in-cheek, it was also spot-on. He wrote tender songs about longing and loneliness, mumbled them to the accompaniment of battery-operated keyboards, recorded them by himself on a crusty four-track machine, and at first released them on his own label.
Ashworth’s music was a tribute to Daniel Johnston, the Mountain Goats, and all the other underground music that inspired him, but it soon grew into something more. Over the years Ashworth’s CFPA recordings started to sound clearer, his songwriting grew stronger, and he began to look more comfortable onstage. A couple of years ago he began recording and performing with a live band backing him.
That might have been the end of something special, but Ashworth’s songs haven’t lost their charm. When you hear a song as good as “Toby, Take a Bow,” you have to admit that Ashworth deserves a backup band, he deserves good recording quality…hell, he deserves a song in a phone commercial.
CASIOTONE FOR THE PAINFULLY ALONE, Ché Café, Saturday, May 24, 8 p.m. 858-534-2312.