The first release by Carrboro trio Embarrassing Fruits—then three Greensboro college kids fucking around with the slip-shod sonics of their indie rock idols—was entitled Sumr Stupid Drunk Fun. The name suited the contents, a fun little eight-song split with Blank Blank that didn't take itself too seriously. For its second release, a self-titled EP released by Trekky last year, Embarrassing Fruits congealed its summery shambles just enough to remind you that—for all the world's fuss about Dinosaur Jr.'s volume or Pavement's auto-eraticism—those bands' best songs mattered more than their presentation.
Community/ Exploitation, the Fruits' nine-song introductory LP, maintains that easy-going esprit with references to the "penis man with penis hands," forties and weed out near the high school parking lot, and the promise of the open road. Importantly, though, it continues the band's conscious progression with regard to songwriting and sound.
Consider Joe Norkus, Embarrassing's guitarist and lead vocalist: Though he's as relaxed as ever here, he attacks these songs as a much-improved frontman, making his irritation apparent through italicized singing on "I Thought I Was Bleeding" and his contentment clear through a stable monotone on closer "Vacations." And for all of the heavy debts the band owes to Dinosaur Jr., his guitar playing is noticeably reserved, its low volume letting the intricacy of his incisive riffs sparkle through, sun rays twinkling through tiny clouds of distortion. The band even strips back to acoustic guitar, trumpet, electric bass and a steady wash of cymbals for "Corner." Thanks to the relaxed approach, you can almost hear Norkus grin as he sings the languid but gleeful ode to a new love-at-first-sight that outlasts the apocalypse. "And now we're so happy," he offers, lifting the end of the line up high, a victory flag for the amorous. "And now we're making babies."
That sort of romanticism—and its rejected-by-love antithesis, the moaning but anthemic "Like That"—supplies the familiarly elemental indie rock of Embarrassing Fruits with an essential intimacy. Much like its resplendent hooks (and those are everywhere on this magnetic debut), such a feeling serves as a perfect bridge between the band's youthful reverie and its incoming experience, between its '90s rock reverence and its own personal advancement.
Embarrassing Fruits plays Local 506 with Blag'ard and Sorry About Dresden Friday, March 20, at 10 p.m. The show is free.