Owen Ashworth's stories are about childhood and its end. With his Casio drumbeat and melancholic keys, he summons characters trying to get by in the world. In "Riot Grrrls" he's a riot grrrl of the 1990s, working at the local cinema, driving around in his father's Taurus, listening to mix tapes. In "The Sister You Never Had" he's a young boy setting the table for his mom. Summers go on forever. Later in the song, he's living on an island, barely hearing from his family. Is he in some kind of Attica or did he just escape to solitude? We're left to wonder.
Advance Base isn't much different from Ashworth's previous band, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. This album falls flat sometimes; the Casio meanders like a prim church hymn. Ashworth's stories aren't always provocative enough to override that. But it's an album that grows on you.
Ashworth's dry, depressed vocals barely shift tone enough to let you know what to feel; it's all in the story he tells. The nostalgia here is reminiscent of Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh, minus the elation. The stories happened long ago and Ashworth captures that keen twinge of never being able to go back.
Advance Base plays Zoo City Apparel Fri., July 6, at 8 PM with Hello Shark and Skinny Legs. $5 donation.