The Embarrassment sure is a homely crew -- possibly the sorriest-looking specimens the 9:30 club has ever booked, resplendent in black, horn-rimmed glasses, shapeless pants and unkempt, too-long hair. The material is standard garage-issue -- meat-and-potatoes punk-pop -- as is the lineup: guitar, bass, etc. This is prosaic almost to the point of parody. In fact, stir in a few comic books and you might come up with the heroic neo-normality of the Ramones.
Still, they put on a thoroughly soul-shaking show Saturday night. Their pop was punchy; their punk, prismatic. Sharp tunes abounded, as did sharp turns, well-timed structural wrinkles that kept the audience on its toes.
Washington's own Tru Fax and the Insaniacs opened the show with its brand of pop-punk hybrids. The new bass player, Bob Young, added a lot. His lyricism underlines the poignant sweetness of Diana Quinn's vocals, while his rhythmic stolidity meshes perfectly with Dave Welles' uproarious guitar.
They played all their familiar faves, reaching as far back as "Nice Girls Finish Last," a tune Welles wrote while in college nearly a decade ago. The new songs, especially "Moonwalk," drew equally enthusiastic responses.