Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Embarrassment on Last Laugh Records

I really think someone could take the release order of Last Laugh for the past couple of years and turn it into a syllabus for a college course on “The origins of punk/alternative music through bands that history forgot”. And from the number of singles you could easily major in the subject. Hell, you start looking at all the bands on Last Laugh, Mighty Mouth and Almost Ready (I don’t know how you would keep these straight) and you easily go for your Doctorate in the subject. Every one of these singles has a pretty amazing story behind it that only takes one listen to want to get in further. These are gateway singles and Last Laugh is going to graduate you to the harder stuff.

The Embarrassment began in 1979 in Wichita, Kansas. Four guys played neurotic, minimal punk and broke up a few years later in 1983. This reissued single is from 1980, a mere year into their existence and holds up against anything on Entertainment!, Signals Calls and Marches or Crazy Rhythms, the other landmark albums from the era. But sadly The Embarrassment didn‘t get a chance to record a studio full length and their records are way out of the price range of the average record nerd…until now.

A-Side‘s "Sex Drive" is mind blowing to think this was 1980. The reverse of the sleeve says this was recorded in ’79 and they’re doing everything that Gang of Four was up to with a little more punk, mean spirited snarl, the cool ‘post’ness hasn't surfaced just yet. I love the crazy harmonies they’re getting with this phaser sounding effect of working in and out of sync. It’s also great that the track is in fact about driving around and needing ‘sex’, like it's something you could pick up at the grocery store. They're picking apart these modern ideas, which looking back, are really just the same for any generation. This thin sounding kit and distanced flat distortion is all in service of these close to the speaker vocals. Slapping wet pillows for drums, the track is extreme low end or crisp highs. They have a Units style of nailing a gutted groove, there no filler in this Devo/Bauhaus design. Bill Goffrier has this fantastic vocal that's edgy and the rest of the band with Tourette’s come in on odd lyrics in a burst of harmony. This jagged rhythm would sound creepy if they weren't so gleeful about their delivery.

Could "Patio Set” be the best name for a song ever? The two of these titles set a suburban American Psycho scene in a way that no other single ever has. Chorus Cure swirl guitar and his tight, straight vocal is the embodiment of everything new wave... comparing a love affair to lawn furniture? These guy`s were such geniuses they had to abandon music to work on the cure for cancer. The dumbest sounding vocals are the best with a skilled hand like this. Tight crunches of phaser over a rumbling see saw tom and high hat rhythm it’s straightjacketed punk and skinny legs takes on a new meaning. The guitar is heavily separated to the left channel... a table between us with drinks on it? Will anyone ever be able to get at this guitar and bass tone again? Blank Dogs came close to a modern interpretation of this bleak landscape but even that's history now.

The insert is a great black and white sketch of this cover, which is a minimal high contrast blurry image. It’s discrete, like the brown wrapped porn, the most hardcore. It's got to hide this manic energy. On Last Laugh Records.

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