Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thoughts on Etiquette


Download: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone -- "Young Shields"

Download: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone -- "Cold, White Christmas"

Time has always been the most precious of commodities (perhaps because, at present, it is the only one cannot be bought or sold...unless you consider working a job the commodification of time, though that seems more like the commodification of your labor than anything else....I don’t know). But it seems as though everyone I know (that which I know of myself included) has taken the concept of “time as precious,” and brought it close to their heart, boasting far less free time than we did just a few years ago. We’re not all having kids, getting married, or working more time-intensive jobs (though some of us are)--maybe we’re just spending too much time adding comments on friends’ Myspace pages or trying to craft witty text messages instead of actually interacting with one another. What ever the reasons, we have somehow carved out lives that rarely allow for us to sit down and listen, undistracted, to an album for 30 minutes and 42 seconds.

I am now putting out a(n)(in)formal invitation to friends and strangers alike to do just that. Make the album Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s Etiquette. I did it once and I’ve had to do it a few more times in subsequent days. Cause this shit is good.

I haven’t moved to New York yet....and it’s questionable as to whether or not I will. But I imagine that if I do I’ll find it as overwhelming as I currently imagine it. I imagine being broke and living in a slanted apartment in Brooklyn that probably should’ve been condemned in the 70's. But, because of a payoff to the New York City Property and Land Commission, I am afforded a modest but low-fare dwelling. It’s sad. It sends memories flooding back. Some memories are mine and some are those of others. “Cold White Christmas” makes me think of one of my tightest bros from way back in 10th grade who now lives in St. Paul, MN with his wife and still new daughter. But his will be a different kind of Christmas in St. Paul–and for that I am glad.

His will be one filled with cleaning up pine needles and Harry Potter wrapping paper in his pajamas early in the evening after the tofurkey has had a chance to settle. Far different than the one that CFTPA’s craftsman, Owen Ashworth, tells about on the album. Christmas on this album is not too different than any other day. In Ashworth’s story, “You’ve marked your independence with a signature on a lease/Home is the photograph you tape to your wall/It’s gonna be a cold, white Christmas in St. Paul.”

Etiquette seems like the stories of those from whom time is disappearing at unfamiliarly rapid rates. A story that tells of one who goes looking for a “New Year’s Kiss” days after the clock strikes 0. A story of a recent transient who mildly panics when he/she realizes that “the money’s running out.” A story of cutting ties and finding that maybe new ones don’t replace the old ones as easily as they once did. A story sometimes told in the sonic styling of early Magnetic Fields. A story that puts shiny, reverb-soaked slide guitars exactly where they should be...in terms of position in the mix, timing within the song, and location on the album. The aforementioned slide guitars provide a nice contrast to the otherwise synthy (oft-danceable, always tasty) pop arrangements.

And it’s not all sad. The characters in the stories still manage to save enough money from their collective job “typing letters for a lawyer in a bad toupee,” to go dance to Casio-based electronics and buy NYC-priced drinks. They’re still reminded of old loves. Maybe the one with whom they “moved together out to Philly after college/took a two bedroom on South and 9th.” Maybe the one who fell fast in love with a Jersey boy (“of course”). Maybe the failed relationship that they swear “felt like a divorce.” But the characters don’t live in a Bob Seger song about the way things used to be. They pay more attention to the way things are. They have found that cheery melodies exist in even the saddest of songs. Sometimes they wake “up at dawn/face down on the lawn” with “stains and scars [they] can’t explain.”

But there’s a certain humor in such a seemingly dismal start to one’s day. And there’s a certain charm to being broke, alone, and without ties....there must’ve been a reason that you cut them in the first place. It’s all confusing I suppose--the happy/sad/alone together thing. Sometimes you need to just end the story abruptly with a simple, (poignant/nonsensical?), “Oh. Oh, oh, oh/Some things are best left unsaid.” When you are asked why you think that makes for an appropriate ending to a story or album, just slowly repeat the second part of the line like four or five times.

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