For want of a better term, Owen Ashworth's Casiotone project could be designated "experimental." But usually that denotes unmelodic, unappealing, difficult-to-digest music. That simply is not the case here. Taking a Casio SK-1 (hence the name of the band, which is sometimes abbreviated to CFTPA), Ashworth performs sparse, minimalistic rock songs that won't remind you of very many other artists, even as he frequently references them. For instance, one of the best songs of this album is "Toby, Take a Bow," which is about "the biggest Smiths's fan ever" and is lyrically comprised of a great many titles and lines from their songs. But the song never becomes gimmicky or merely clever. That is typical of Ashworth's album as a whole. Using a lowly Casio SK-1 could be viewed as a highly pretentious stab at being self-consciously different, and on some level I suppose that is true, but what redeems it is that the songs are consistently marvelous and fascinating. In addition to the Smiths homage, other highlights include "CFTPA in a Yellow T-Shirt" "and "Hey Eleanor." Some of the songs seem almost half-finished, almost evoking such Daniel Johnston's toy organ recordings. But Ashworth's musical competence shows that the roughness on songs like "Giant" might be intentional.
Not everyone is going to like this album. The recording quality is intentionally low. Many will find the arrangements to be primitive and not merely lo-fi but lo-tech. But many others will treasure this as a truly original effort by a fascinating artist. Anyone enjoying this album should definitely sample Ashworth's (that is, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone's) album that was released prior to this one, POCKET SYMPHONIES FOR LONELY SUBWAY CARS. If anything it is even better than this one.