Upon receiving Advance Base Batterly Life, I was initially under the impression that it was the new NEW record by Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. But I was only part right. It was a collection of covers and outtakes from various parties and get-togethers Owen Ashworth partook in over the past… oh who knows. Vs. Children, on the other hand, is a proper album, packed full with new material and themed along the lines of the title.
The themes: remorseful bad guys and little young-ins. As we grow older, the thoughts of children enter the minds of many of us; I cannot tell you how many friends from high school already have two (sometimes even three) kids or the metaphoric bun in the oven, or who want one. Then there’s the other crowd – those who haven’t even gone down that path and, frankly, aren’t quite sure what to think of the little ones.
Now, Vs. Children and CFTPA are far from being child-safe. The Casio keyboards and lovely little musical ditties of Ashworth may turn a few toddler heads, but his voice is much too depressing for the young. They’ll grow up to be the remorseful criminal aforementioned.
“Optimist” (short for “Optimist Vs. The Silent Alarm (When The Saints Go Marching In)”) is the obvious high point on Vs. Children, thanks to its recognizable melody and catchy lyrical styling. But, in all actuality, most the album follows suit, from the higher-pitched (gasp!) “Traveling Salesman’s Young Wife Home Alone On Christmas In Montpelier, VT” to the most excellent drum box beats of closer “White Jetta”.
The two themes often intertwine, from child outlaws to child abductions to grownup thieves reminiscing on the carefree innocent youth they left behind many years ago. It’s ripe material for an artist like Ashworth and his CFTPA, and it’s fodder for a great release at that. When the harmony vocals enter in “Man O’ War”, one cannot help but feel something given the past eight or so years. And the recounting of various seemingly factual historic crimes, full with dates and locations, is enough for any fan of The Decemberists to take notice.
As a whole, Vs. Children is a more than solid release. It’s packed with lovable melodies, intriguing lyrical story lines, and a fair share of thought-provoking emotion. It is an album that has more depth than you would think upon the first few listens, thus requiring one to dwell on various songs, do countless Google searches, and contemplate whether some of these stories actually took place or if they’re all the concoction of a mad genius in disguise as a depressing indie pop musician.
Tomlab [CD, 2009]
1. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone Vs. Children
2. Tom Justice, The Choir Boy Robber, Apprehended At Ace Hardware In Libertyville, IL
3. Optimist Vs. The Silent Alarm (When The Saints Go Marching In)
4. Natural Light
5. Traveling Salesman’s Young Wife Home Alone On Christmas In Montpelier, VT
6. Man O’ War
7. Northfield, NM
9. Harsh The Herald Angels Sing
10. You Were Alone
11. White Jetta