It was 2008 and Tony Molina was a man possessed. Over the span of six months, the then 24-year-old San Francisco Peninsula native would record three different records at Bart Thurber’s studio, House of Faith. Two were with Ovens – an LP and a 7” – and the third was a solo album, his first, called Embarrassing Times.
“I had these songs that were not totally in the Ovens style,” says Molina. Whereas Ovens had a strong influence from classical music, the Beatles, and Baroque ’60s pop, these new songs had a woolly ’80s/’90s underground bent to them, channeling bands like Dinosaur Jr., the Replacements, and Guided By Voices.
His friends had to cancel two days of studio time with Thurber at the last minute, and offered them to Molina. Without giving it too much thought he accepted, and decided to record these songs that didn’t quite fit Ovens. He enlisted lifelong friend and Ovens drummer Beau Monnot to join him, and Embarrassing Times is what came out of that session.
The album has a warm, casual, off-the-cuff charm that reflects its humble origins. The original songs on the album are terrific, but what Molina feels sets this record apart are the covers – Roy Wood, the Dead Milkmen, Camper Van Beethoven, and his friend Kyle Spleiss – all of which glow with a sweet nostalgia.
Until now the album has only been available on cassette. This release marks its first appearance on wax and its first time receiving proper mastering, along with updated artwork. “It’s one of my favorites,” he says of the album. “It was kind of accidental, but it gave me incentive that I was like, ‘OK, maybe I can make another solo record someday.’” It would be another five years before he’d write and record his breakthrough second album, Dissed and Dismissed, but Embarrassing Times, despite not being quite as widely heard, is a great, endlessly listenable debut and a critical piece of the puzzle for fans of Molina’s music.