This powerful and intense album is a DIY project made in bleak circumstances.
It was written, recorded and mixed in the kitchen of a one-bedroom flat in a crumbling building situated in the wastelands of Los Angeles. Predictably, this "toxic" environment doesn't invite a great deal of positive thinking or cheerfulness.
Most of the songs refer to depression and loneliness; indeed, at his most extreme, Ethan Gold admits to being "on the edge of suicide" (On Edge (Celestial Porch)). At the end of this track loud background noises intrude. These might be caused by a strong wind, thunderclaps, gunshots or explosions. Either way it gives the impression that outdoors is just as inhospitable as inside the apartment.
It's no surprise therefore that Gold appears so wired and weird. You get a measure of his frustration in the piano ballad Royal Flush; a warped love song that Edgar Allen Poe might have written. Details like "stagnant air" and "pasty skin" create an oppressive atmosphere that is not only unhealthy but also pretty creepy.
With other songs, notably Poison, 'That' and Tonight, Gold enters the kind of introspective, despairing territory that Elliot Smith charted.
'Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' runs the tired cliché but Gold rejects such platitudes and certainly doesn't feel strong. Tortured would be a more accurate description.
In a shinier, happier world love would come to the rescue but two of the key tracks make it plain that this escape route is off the agenda. Nonstop is a spoof disco tune centred on a dialogue between a prostitute and a client while in They Turned Away Gold sings of a loathing for superficial niceness and all things that strike him as suspiciously clean.
In both songs Gold presents scenarios which are the antithesis of romanticism and the declaration (in They Turned Away) that "I want someone to love my ugliest shafts" is not designed to bring on the nubiles.
The dark themes and grim humour are effectively presented in video versions of most of the tracks. The seediness of Nonstop (directed by Owen's brother) is translated into a sharp satire of Robert Palmer's 'Addicted To Love'. Other songs are rendered as lively animations or else acted out by Owen in a variety of roles. These visual aids provide a welcome antidote to the toxicity of the drab surroundings in which the record was made.
Gold sings of being in a self-made cage" and the recognition of this fact offers the faintest glimmer of hope amid all the despair. After all, what can be made can also be unmade.