Twinkle Echo


Apparently, it takes roughly 30 minutes to break my heart. I asked for it--I can't remember the last time I've so actively anticipated a release as I have Casiotone for the Painfully Alone's third (and reportedly final) album, the semisweet morsel Twinkle Echo--and I knew what I was in for. For the uninitiated, CFTPA is the solo moniker for Owen Ashworth's sentiment-soaked, deceptively simple keyboard pop--chronicling in straightforward vignettes the middling malaise of adult mediocrity. Picking up where his previous release (the subtle masterpiece Pocket Symphonies for Lonesome Subway Cars) left off, Ashworth delves deeper into pocket-sized portraits of discontented twentysomethings, this time with darker shadows beginning to tinge the bittersweet narrative--the Smog on his sleeve seeping out more than ever. Though perhaps not quite as conceptually cohesive as the last effort, Twinkle Echo showcases what is easily Ashworth's most lyrically and melodically concise songwriting to date--with blow after subtle blow to the Achilles' heel of nostalgia. ZAC PENNINGTON

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone performs with the Dead Science and the Papercuts, Sun Sept 14 at Luscious Studios (321 Third Ave S), 9 pm, $5.


The Decline of British Sea Power

(Rough Trade)

Ah, the hype. Arch-conceptualists British Sea Power may have an art-rock facade, all noblesse and dandy dress, but their pose comes apart upon closer inspection. They were signed to tastemakers Rough Trade on the strength of just two singles, much like their one-time labelmates the Strokes, but that's not all the two bands have in common. Despite the Gregorian delights that opener "Men Together Today" promises, The Decline of British Sea Power descends immediately into the tried, true, and tired realm of neo-'80s moodiness and angular guitars. The Cure's gloomy cloud looms large over the British Sea Power schooner, especially on soundalike "Blackout," in which Ian Curtis' ghost haunts their halls; the Bunnymen, ahem, echo throughout BSP's reverb-laden empire. That said, and partly for those reasons, the album is an enjoyable listen, if not necessarily melodically enticing; there is enough texture, depth, and, most importantly, rock to merit the advance praise from the oft-dubious UK music press. Still, the image doesn't quite fit the content. Let the buyer beware if the band's maritime finery gives expectations of a throwback to Technicolor days; BSP's waves crash upon your ears in harsh grays. ALEX STIMMEL



(Warner Brothers/Hellcat)

A frustrating yet compelling sixth Rancid album, Indestructible benefits from its ghosts, most notably those of the late Joe Strummer and of lead singer Tim Armstrong's relationship with wife Brody (the Distillers), which came to a nasty public end earlier this year.

The former is infused into many of the album's best songs, most strikingly on "Arrested in Shanghai," a soulful, surprisingly delicate piece that would've been quite at home on Strummer's final album, and on the album's opening title track, a soaring tribute to Strummer and Joey Ramone. The former Mrs. Armstrong, meanwhile, seems to have been loaded into a thematic shotgun and fired at this album repeatedly, popping up most recognizably on the album's Motown-style single, "Fall Back Down," and the Farfisa-driven "Tropical London."

While Rancid's new joint deal with Warner Records (coupled with the undeniably catchy nature of their single) has old fans crying sellout, the most frustrating thing about the record is that the band doesn't pursue its weird, soul-infused side more wholeheartedly. For every tantalizing moment of super-distorted organ and almost OutKast-style beasts, there is the equally competent yet ultimately ho-hum track of streetcore. Still, in the larger equation, this is undeniably the best major-label punk album to be released in a long time. BILL BULLOCK


Gumballhead the Cat

(Skin Graft)

To most bands, making a concept record simply means throwing a bunch of songs together around a loose central theme. But with experimental label Skin Graft Records, nothing is that easy. Chicago's Cheer-Accident, a collective of musicians who call themselves a pop band--but who stretch that term out of shape like a T-shirt that's 10 sizes too small--perform post-rock opuses that shift moods, rhythms, tempos, and instruments from one song to the next. Their latest release, or concept, is a soundtrack for SG cartoonist Rob Syers, whose artwork has long been associated with the label. He's created a short book called Gumballhead the Cat in which, over the course of 15 pages, Gumballhead goes from eating rats to smoking cigarettes and setting a thug's face on fire. Although there are no breaks between songs soundtracking the feline's busy life, there are shifts in mood for the accompanying music that expand the storyline to dimensions beyond the page. The mostly instrumental pieces shift from sounding very tumultuous and effects-heavy, and break into simple, ambient waves of repetition within woozy stretches of innocent, marching-band-like sonics. Tribal percussion rises between grunts of synthesizers and accordion bursts, fusing together into one bizarre record that's best experienced played really loud during very long vacations from sobriety. JENNIFER MAERZ

**** beer bottle *** beer can ** beer breath * beer gut