Casiotone for the Painfully Alone | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone 

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The name of Owen Ashworth's one-man band, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, lets you know you're in for some melancholy bedroom pop played on bargain synths. But what it doesn't convey is just how well Ashworth's songs succeed at making depression sound alluring. His lyrics owe a huge debt to the Smiths, and he knows it--on his most recent album, Twinkle Echo, he turned their kicky "Sheila Take a Bow" into the despondent (if still satirical) "Toby Take a Bow." But Ashworth does Morrissey proud: empathetic portrait-songs like "Roberta C." move lightly from generic characterizations ("Listless intellectual / In her prime") to well-chosen details ("Scrabble high score 409 / With a note on the bed") before fanning back out to the universal ("Saying 'True love is hard to find'"). There are hints of the Magnetic Fields as well--adenoidal voice and all--but where Stephin Merritt favors smooth arrangements, Ashworth likes to pair angular, spiky rhythms with thick chords held so long they begin to oppress. It's disorienting at first, but soon the warm, conventional progressions unfold over your sore ole heart like a heavy quilt. "Young Shields," the single that heralds the soon-to-be-released fourth Casiotone album, might be a tad more polished--I think I hear a real cymbal--but the lovely narratives and patina of fuzz remain. Dear Nora, Sleep Out, and Michael Lyons open. Wed 11/16, 8 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, $8, 18+.

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