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Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – The Deaf Institute, Manchester 05/11/11

09 November 2010, 16:09 | Written by Matthew Britton

There must be something thoroughly depressing about growing old whilst the songs you created remain eerily unaged, a snapshot of your youth played out every night on your yearly tour. There’s always been a lot of personality and humour packed in Owen Ashworth’s works, which is precisely why there’s been such a swell of appreciation for his output as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.

Letting go is always hard, but Ashworth has done it so brilliantly throughout his thirteen years under the moniker. Perhaps that’s the reason why fans reacted so amicably to his decision to say goodbye to the tracks that have soundtracked a generation of lonely slackers, and why the vibe at his last ever Manchester show as Casiotone is one of appreciation and acceptance. Taking to the stage to warm applause, he’s every bit the awkward genius, fidgety and looking like he’d rather be anywhere other than alone with a patchwork of keyboards in front of a hundred or so people.

Unsurprisingly, given that this is a farewell tour, the set could only be described as greatest hits, drawing heavily from his undoubted masterpiece, Etiquette. It doesn’t take long for the crowd to realise this is the last chance to hear their favourite lo-fi hits, either, and the space in between songs quickly becomes a shouting match of lesser known album tracks. For his part, Owen plays along, happy to please his paying audience – a well timed plea for a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ is rewarded with a wonky, keyboard heavy version, whilst the occasional yelp for Hobby Holly is appeased towards the end of the set.

Ultimately though, this was always going to be an evening laced with sadness, though for many different reasons. A band splitting up to pursue different directions is one thing, but a man who is tired of playing songs he wrote over ten years ago is another entirely. As the lyric change in ‘Cold White Christmas’ illustrates (changing the age to 36 in “this September I’ll be 26 years old”), Ashworth has grown up, out of the grey areas of the mid twenties and into something else. The change was inevitable – but having to deal with it, from a fans point of view, is crushing. His songs, though never majestic, were always masterful at what they did, and they’ll always give voice to the blank, lost post-teenage years. It’s not a huge legacy, but it’s something.

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