There is something to be said for simple, straightforward songwriting, especially amidst the current downpour of multi-million-layered 80’s-inspired bands. Without question, this old-come-new genre has produced, and continues to produce, some incredible bands, but the humble, simplistic approach to writing music seems to be somewhat of a lost art form. Advance Base, the moniker for Owen Ashworth’s new solo project, seems to have rediscovered just how great simple music can be, while putting his own melancholic, sense-of-isolation spin on it, in a way only Ashworth can.
Those familiar with Owen Ashworth will recall his previous project: the now defunct Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Slightly more experimental than Advance Base, Casiotone enjoyed success touring with artists as diverse as David Bazan, The Rapture, and Cass McCombs. However in late 2010, Ashworth called it quits, and began work on Advance Base in his Chicago apartment – in solitude, of course.
The songwriting in Advance Base is certainly a progression for Ashworth, showcasing his refined ability to produce pretty, fragile, and emotional pieces that tell tales of solitude, loneliness, and despair. Occasionally songs of this nature tend to lean toward a sense of inauthenticity, but not here. Advance Base appears to be the vessel Ashworth is using to let his thoughts set sail. Heck, even the name, ‘Advance Base’ is named after explorer Richard E. Byrd’s memoir, entitled Alone.
Advance Base’s debut album, A Shut-In’s Prayer, is a collection of stories rather than songs. Despite the upbeat tempo of tracks like “More Trouble” and “New Gospel,” the lyrics offer somewhat of a paradox. In the former, Ashworth describes a situation in which a person is waiting to hear the inevitable bad news from a doctor, and the latter details advice to a confused and depressed drug-addict. But strangely, it’s this awkward duality that makes both this album and Advance Base beautifully unique, and yet undeniably relatable.