The Embarrassment

Death Travels West

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In later years, Goffrier proclaimed the results of the band's first attempt to make a full album a bit "darker and moodier" in comparison to earlier efforts. Still, it's hard to hear the opening "Careen," with its blasting organ solo from Nichols and quick, ripping pace and crisp delivery as particularly angst-ridden -- Joy Division this isn't! The lyrics betray a little more concern, to be sure, but Nichols and company deliver them with less in the way of self-reflection and more in the spirit of inspired singalong. With that as a start, the Embarrassment plunged right into the rest of Death Travels West, where with Nichols' keyboard work gaining a new prominence the foursome found the connection between its nervy post-punk and early garage rock, and made it work. Some songs steer away from full-on, to be sure, but nothing ever drags -- "Viewmaster" and the hilarious and more than a little scabrous "Hip and Well Read" crackle with the usual swift, sure electricity. There are more than a few hints of the members' intellect, especially thanks to a couple of songs that in the wrong hands probably would have sounded like bad They Might Be Giants. Instead, "Lewis and Clark" revisits the efforts of those two explorers while making it all sound less glorious and more uneasy, for all that there's a line about getting to the beaches "where the girls are best." Meanwhile, "D-Rings" uses a bit of terminology about Saturn to convey a sense of final parting that's quite touching, all with handclaps, spacey keyboards, and some inspired guitar scrapes to add to the chugging rush of the song. Everyone sounds simply great; at this point, the Embarrassment clearly must have been a live act to behold, from Nichols's clear, never overwrought vocals to the tight as hell Klaus/Giessmann rhythm section.