Owen Ashworth, the man formerly known as Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, is about to release his latest album under the name Advance Base. It’s a dog-themed LP called Animal Companionship, and so far we’ve heard “True Love Death Dream,” “Dolores & Kimberly,” and “Your Dog” (which surprisingly hung in there with Soccer Mommy in the race for this year’s best “Your Dog”).
The album is out at the end of this week, and today Ashworth shares one more advance taste via a video for fourth single “Christmas In Nightmare City.” Directed by Karima Walker, it’s a largely impressionistic portrait that accurately captures the feeling of driving alone on a bleary, depressive night. That makes it an ideal canvas for the song, a two-minute ballad that pairs Ashworth’s rich baritone with lovely delicate keyboard runs.
The clip sticks quite literally to Ashworth’s narrative, which appears to be set in the depressed industrial town of Gary, Indiana just outside Chicago (home of the world-famous Jackson 5 — and Freddie Gibbs!). “Gary’s beautiful at night, by the lights of the refinery,” he sings. “It’s like Christmas in Nightmare City/ It’s absolutely shocking.” Things then take a deeply personal turn: “What do you call what you are now/ Three months dry & gaining weight/ Wondering how long it’s supposed to take before you feel stronger.”
At The Talkhouse, Ashworth wrote an essay about this song and video, which includes a lot of enlightening backstory:
“Christmas In Nightmare City” deals with the restless energy, sugar cravings, and minor identity crisis I experienced after I quit drinking. That restless energy often led to insomnia, and on a few occasions, I’d spend those late, lonely hours just driving around the Chicago suburbs, listening to talk radio or a Stephen King audiobook, eating gas station candy, and letting my mind wander. I remember one night in early December, making my way through Gary, Indiana with Pet Semetary on my Subaru’s stereo, passing under the blinking street lights of an abandoned downtown, and then getting lost in the industrial zone. I got pretty creeped out, so I turned off the stereo and just listened to the eerie hum of trains, factories, and refineries rolling past. I was struck by the grace of the industrial work lights, twinkling through the mist. They reminded me of Christmas, and I found it all strangely comforting. That was the feeling I tried to get at when I wrote “Christmas In Nightmare City.”
Animal Companionship is out 9/21 on Run For Cover. Pre-order it here.