If they sometimes seemed like the perennial bargain basement indie popsters, Embrace are nevertheless back again for a third stab at fame and fortune. Unable to capitalize on the goodwill generated by 1998’s anthemic debut album The Good Will Out (which spawned two of the biggest singalongs of the dying embers of Britpop in ‘All You Good Good People’ and ‘Come Back To What You Know’), the Yorkshire band stumbled through another two albums before falling out of contract. 2004’s Out Of Nothing hit the top of the album chart and a little help from Coldplay on the single ‘Gravity’ was a help, not a hindrance. Yet another spell in the wilderness, eight years since their last release, sees the McNamara brothers and their pals pinning their hopes on a threepeat (You're fired - Ed.) of past glories.
Do they succeed? Almost. By mixing things up, adding some dance moves to their well practiced indie anthems, it is somewhat of a return to form, albeit formulaic - and leaning heavily on the sounds of some big hitting contemporaries. Opener ‘Protection’ with its heavy industrial bass opening and ‘Blue Monday’ beats suggests something new before opening into a typically anthemic Embrace chorus. Then things gets a bit MOR: ‘In The End’, with Danny McNamara sounding like Bernard Sumner, is fast paced and OK but nondescript; ‘Refugees’ uplifts in the chorus and breaks out some mid-noughties dance sounds. ‘I Run’ is strong, if all a bit U2, as is ‘At Once’. The best tracks? ‘Follow You Home’ ("Oah oah oah-o-o / I’m gonna follow you home") is very The Killers, ‘Quarters’ goes full on retro electronic beats, and ‘A Thief On My Island’ is a six minute sonic assault.
McNamara’s voice is strong and while there’s plenty to like, there's just not enough to really excite. A more complete experience than Out Of Nothing, Embrace lacks the couple of absolutely killer tunes to lift it higher. Solid rather than spectacular then, and a fair description of the overall Embrace experience.