Embrace were one of those bands back in the 90s who were always around. Everyone remembers them being there but they never seemed to be one of the defining sounds of the era. Far from being one hit wonders, it’s still one track that usually springs to mind when talking about the band, and that’s the wonderful britpop ballad Come Back to What You Know. Full of heart, emotion and power, it became a defining song for them and a singalong classic. Then just like many of the 90s indie bands, it was hard for them to stick around in the aftermath; music changed, tastes changed and it became harder and harder for the group to keep in the mainstream. They did better than many, releasing songs such as Natures Law reaching number 2 in the UK in 2006, but the flame seemed to have dimmed. A break was needed and a break is what they had – a seven year one to be exact.
Instead of finding it difficult to return however, they have done it with ease with new the new self-titled album Embrace. Possibly catching up with the early noughties tradition of secret gigs, the boys recently played one in the dark and one in a boxing ring – some might say this was a cheap marketing ploy, but to be honest if it gets you to listen to the album, you won’t be disappointed.
Embrace seem to have moved into a new era with this record, but in a backwards direction. This isn’t a bad thing as they seem to have settled on the 80s with an indie vibe. You can hear U2 and New Order influences littered throughout, especially in opener Protection. It’s a bass heavy track which grows into the new direction taken by the band, gently edging you into the song. New Order’s Blue Monday springs to mind, but with a modern day twist and witty social commentary lyrics: “serial killers, capital letters, the louder the better”. In The end sounds more like the Embrace we know with guitars and a huge chorus – possibly a track to remind you that it’s still them, but Embrace 2.0. Follow You Home is one of the strongest tracks and the dual vocals work really well (although the lyrics can sound a little stalker-ish), and I run provides relief to many fans by being a well thought out ballad which no Embrace album would be complete without.
There are a couple of songs on their that don’t quite make the grade – Refugees is a dance track too far and Self Attack Mechanism doesn’t feel like it fits in, but these are swiftly forgotten when album closer A Thief on my Island begins. A six and a half minute epic, it features an addictive build up, nostalgic 90s lyrics, and then just when you think it should end, it releases a huge wall of sound half way through that would wake up the dead.
The 7 year break has done a world of wonders for the band. It’s allowed them to reflect on where they were, where they were going and rekindled their love of music. They’ve released a record which feels like they enjoyed creating, and the time and effort comes through in their mix of nostalgia and the current.