Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Embarrassment

  • The Embarrassment EP [Cynykyl EP, 1981] B
  • Death Travels West [Fresh Sounds, 1983] B+
  • Retrospective [Fresh Sounds, 1984] A-
  • Blister Pop [My Pal God, 2001] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Embarrassment EP [Cynykyl EP, 1981]
From exotic Wichita, with a gift for hookily hypnotic guitar lines that need a haircut. The big name at "Celebrity Art Party" is Art Carney, so they also have a gift for the off-rhyme. The rest is harder to remember. B

Death Travels West [Fresh Sounds, 1983]
Eight droning, astringent, strangely catchy songs about everything from the Lewis and Clark Expedition to "There's no doubt about it my old friend's a monster." The horror--the horror. B+

Retrospective [Fresh Sounds, 1984]
Now that I've finally gotten the message, a year and a half after this great lost American band dispersed into the wilds of Wichita, I still can't repeat it back to you. Which may help explain how the band got lost. Even garage-rock isn't a broad enough genre description--the song shapes here are just too ungainly. Their lyrics are too wide-ranging and elusive for modern romance, yet too down-to-earth and just plain funny to get lumped in with the neotrippies. And while the voice of John Nichols, described by annotator Drew Wheeler as belonging to "an All-American adolescent in a state of psycho-sexual confusion," provides a convenient way in, I know that what makes me sit up and say yeah is the kick of Bill Goffrier's rather grungy guitar. You figure it out. A-

Blister Pop [My Pal God, 2001]
Live leavings of a helluva bar band ("Faith Healer," "Time Has Come Today"). ***