Advance Base: Animal Companionship, ABBA, and the Art of Lowering Heart Rates

Ashley Naftule
6 min readDec 15, 2018
Advance Base’s Owen Ashworth (Photo by Jeff Marini)

There are days where I think the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” is the greatest love song ever recorded. David Byrne’s yearning yelp, the twinkling soundscape, the way lines like “Sing into my mouth” convey so much about desire and attraction and need. But to be honest, the real reason why I think it’s possibly the best love song ever is how it stripes away all the romanticism and weight we put on relationships with one simple line: “I’m just an animal looking for a home.”

Brush away all the poetry and philosophizing we apply to love and that’s what remains: raw animal need. The desire to belong, to not be alone, to feel like someone will take you in in the dark of the night when you have nowhere else to go and they will do so again tomorrow. Love is someone picking you up from work every night when you don’t have a car and helping you finish the crossword puzzle in the morning when you’re stumped. It’s this reassuring and blunt view of love that colors Owen Ashworth’s latest collection of songs.

Ashworth has been putting out records since 1997, first under the Casiotone For The Painfully Alone banner before rechristening his solo project as Advance Base. While he’s gradually added different kinds of instrumentation over the years (like the pedal steel that sings on Animal Companionship highlight “Dolores & Kimberly”), most of his work consists of his weary, emotive baritone telling stories over Casio keyboards. His sound and production style sounds like what would have happened if Leonard Cohen teamed up with Suicide, or a version of Bruce Springsteen that tunneled deeper and deeper into the depressing and spare space he carved out on Nebraska.

Ashworth’s latest album, Animal Companionship, is one of the year’s most beautifully written albums. The songs on the record are about creature comforts and the creatures that comfort us. There’s stories about people visiting places just to see a friend’s dog, friends who call their answering machines so their dogs can hear their voices, love songs about people who give up everything so they can move to Indiana and slow dance with their new partners after a night of drinking champagne in their living room. Like Byrne on “This Must Be The Place,” the characters in Ashworth’s songs are just animals looking for a home.

Ashworth is the kind of songwriter who…

Ashley Naftule

Playwright & freelance writer. Bylines in The AV Club, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Phoenix New Times, The Hard Times. Newsletter: