7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Danny, Daaaany, whoa Danny Mac, when are ya comin' back?, 26 Oct. 2004
It's been a strange seven years for Huddersfield's finest. They arrived on the musical radar as gobby, cocky, shaggy haired Northerners, alienating their musical peers and winning no friends in the music press. Those, of course, were the days when we all still loved Oasis - so the chart-buying public lapped it up. 'The Good Will Out' - good being the operative word on an album far from flawless - went to number one and spawned several sizeable chart hits. Danny Macnamara's self-belief was paying off - all was going to plan. Then it went a little pear-shaped - answers on a postcard if you have any notion of why this happened. See, 2000's 'Drawn from Memory' was a wonderful progression. Not only did it retain the mass-appealing tunefulness of its predecessor - it also offered inventiveness and innovation. Quick fire instrumentals, long classical interludes...erm, kazoo solos....yes, the album was a bit kitchen sink-ish, but it was thrillingly eclectic. Yet it failed to make an impact, and sales were relatively modest. Poor choices of single releases can't have helped ('Hooligan' should be filed away as a comedy record and never be spoken of again). The decline continued with the following year's 'If You've Never Been' - an album intimate and undoubtedly passionate, but lacking in the anthemic qualities that brought the band to our attention in the first place. Sales were poor. They were dropped in 2002 by Hut - and, as red-faced as the label must feel now, frankly who could have blamed them at the time? A career round-up best of was tossed out lovelessly, which contained no new songs - yes, Embrace were in the doldrums. No one would have been surprised if we'd never heard of them again, and I'm sure that includes the band members themselves. Macnamara had failed to realise his dream.
Then - the musical fairytale of the year - Embrace reappeared late this summer on Independiente. Chris Martin is renowned for his charity work - and donating 'Gravity' to the band Coldplay once supported on tour certainly was an act of generosity. No mere Coldplay castoff, 'Gravity' was a stone cold classic. The single was a big fat Top Ten hit, paving the way for Embrace's first number one album since their debut. Suddenly, finally, Embrace are massive.
And what an album. Macnamara has been quoted as saying that, even if he was given another hundred years, he couldn't have written a better album. He's surely right - it's easily their best to date. To call an album 'perfect' sounds like hyperbole - but there are simply no criticisms to be laid here. Beautifully weighted and balanced, every moment of heartbreak and despair seems to be matched by one of positivity, of joy. No two tracks sound alike, and nor do any seem like rehashes of previous work - there's a freshness here. Choosing a highlight seems pointless - although the title track / album closer is simply outstanding; an enormous, lumpy-throated lament to lost love (a recurrent lyrical theme, always handled subtly and without melodrama - Macnamara is a sorely underrated lyricist). Okay, so it's fair to say that, despite improvements over the years, the band's front man is not the world's greatest vocalist (never did Bob Dylan any harm...). No matter - what he lacks in technical excellence, he more than makes up for in passion and soul. Tracks like 'Keeping' and 'Looking as You Are' are endearingly heartfelt and moving. In contrast, 'Near Life' is dark and menacing - territory not often explored by Embrace, but it works really well.
There's probably been a better record released in 2004 - but I sure as Hell haven't heard it. Where on Earth the band will go with album number five is anyone's guess - they've set the bar high with 'Out of Nothing'. Good on ya, Danny Mac.