on 26 September 2005
The b-side is in danger of becoming a dying art now that the ridiculous rules which govern chart singles have effectively retarded creativity by punishing artists for producing material (multiple format releases, no more than 3 tracks on one CD and 2 on another, the rise of MP3s, falling single sales and rising album sales etcetera, etcetera). These days it seems that too many bands witlessly throw live, acoustic or remixed versions of singles onto b-sides, and fail to use them as a vehicle for creativity and myth-building.
Embrace, like The Boo Radleys, Talk Talk, early Stone Roses, Super Furry Animals, Blur, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, Radiohead and many, many others (The Beatles, Orbital, The Pixies!), have always put quality tunes on their b-sides - from their earliest EPs to their most recent singles, consistently burying tracks where only the completist will find them, often hiding away far more interesting songs than they've released as singles or released on their albums. Finally record company people have seen sense, and this compilation, which culls songs from both their early days on Hut to work with their current label Independiente, gathers together (most of) the best ones onto one fantastic CD, which showcases Embrace as far more than the anthemic balladeers their public persona might paint them as.
Dry Kids (B-Sides 1997-2002) is being touted as a companion to Fireworks (Singles 1997-2002), but to be honest it pretty much trounces that collection and is easily the equal of Embrace's best studio albums (for my money Drawn From Memory and Out Of Nothing). Some of the bands very, very best songs are here - the sweetly melodic title track, the seethingly angry Blind, the schizo punk Brothers & Sisters, the Verve-play-Otis Stax meltdown I've Been Running, the caustic balladry of Madelaine and the heavily-sequenced disco noise of Flaming Red Hair are all fantastic. Too Many Times is a jerking, Fugazi-esque rocker and Feels Like Glue is an ENORMOUS, expansive psychedelic pop groove, while Butter Wouldn't Melt and Love Is Back are almost impossibly delicate, and songs like Milk & Honey and The Shots Still Ringing could easily find a place on radio playlists. If you factor in the mad dancefloor pull of the dubbed-out One Big Family remix, plus a handful of other great tunes, this 18-track, 78-minute collection is a terrific snapshot of one of the best and most productive bands working today.
The only complaint is that not every great b-side the band have done could fit on here, meaning that if you want to hear equally awesome tunes like Get On Board, If You Feel Like A Sinner, The First Cut, Red Eye Shot, Come On & Smile and You've Only Got To Stop To Get Better, then you'll have to track down the original singles they were released on.
Check out the (excellent and extensive) sleevenotes too - they offer a real insight into how each song fits into the band's history and bring further value to this already great value package, with both some amusing anecdotes (about Rolf Harris?) and thoughts on the band's own favourite songs. I know, because I wrote them.
on 4 April 2006
Those short-sighted enough to claim Embrace only do ballads or anthems should listen to this CD. The unpalatable truth for those prejudiced, misguided moaners is simple - Embrace produce great tunes and this collection is immense. Anyone still on the (frankly now rather tedious) "Danny can't sing" bandwagon should also be silenced after a listen to this, because he can, and what's more, very well. His range is greater and encapsulates more truth, character and feeling in it than he's often given credit for (just watch him testing the rest of the band on "Come back to What You Know" on the hair-raisingly brilliant, live Glorious Day DVD) and his vocal versatility is evident on Dry Kids, easily managing the wide variety of styles, from emotional ballads to which his sensitive, sometimes fragile voice gives an almost uncomfortable emotional intensity to heavier, more rocky productions and re-mixes.
Each of the well-chosen tracks has their attractions (far too many to go into detail here), but some personal favourites include:
Madelaine: Danny's finest hour lyrically, this could also be the best song Embrace have ever produced. The melody is sweeping and tension-filled; it's doom-laden, drenched in tragedy, with Danny sounding like a man suffering emotional meltdown. His vocals are fragile, he doesn't know what to do with himself ("I need to break out of my skin") and if you're not moved to tears by the intensity of "I would change everything just to sing to you while you're alone" then you have no soul, it's as simple as that, it truly is.
Flaming Red Hair: What a follow-on to Madelaine. Awesome, blinding, heavy, funky, rocky and completely unlike anything else Embrace have done, this track simply has to be heard to be believed - absolutely incredible. If you're wearing socks while listening to this one, prepare for them to be knocked off.
How Come: From the Jo Whiley Live Lounge on Radio 1. What a revelation, just listen to it. It's yet another fine example of how courageous Embrace are. At very short notice (a few days, I understand), they came up with this highly innovative version of the Eminem/D12 track when the song they'd originally chosen had been done already. It went down a storm and it's easy to hear why.
Butter wouldn't melt: Absolutely gorgeous, soaring vocal, another beautiful tune.
Free Ride: Just Danny's fabulous voice and Mickey Dale's wonderful piano.
Feels Like Glue: Lovely opening guitars, opens out into an immense, eight and a half minute epic.
I've been running: Simple, but beautiful ballad, Danny's voice is on top form, the impressive instrumentation swirls around, building into another top track.
Milk & Honey: Simply a great tune, one of the best on the album, mellow and uplifting, full of hope and longing for a better future, very strong vocals.
Waterfall: Absolutely fabulous tune, strong, flowing vocal, great guitars.
There's plenty more that could be said, so if you haven't already got this CD, what on earth are you waiting for? Delay no longer, go and buy it and discover your own favourites. Listen to it while reading the superb lyrics and the excellent sleeve notes and join the faithful.
on 28 September 2005
The b-side was once known to be a throw away track or an opportunity to add endlessly repetitive-and not very good-mixes and remixes and remixes of mixes of the A-side.
However, as this excellent compilation will testify, certain bands over the years have blown that myth apart by turning the b-side into a quality track or tracks, making it something to savour and treasure, allowing it to gain cult status.
Indeed with Dry Kids, Embrace more than follow that trend, they make it their own and it couldnt be better timed, coming hot on the heels of the excellent and hugely succesful Out Of Nothing, whose singles b-sides, thankfully, are included here.
This therefore brings together a best of the second best of recordings that Embrace have undertaken whilst signed to Hut and Independiente record labels.
But labelling the compilation as ' a best of the second best ' is perhaps shortsighted as most of the tracks presented on Dry Kids are as good as their A-sides, if not better in some cases.
I make particular reference to The Shots Still Ringing, Too Many Times, the heartfelt Maybe I Wish, not forgetting Feels Like Glue, Milk and Honey, which is fantastic and a personal favourite and also The Way I Do.
Purists will also be glad for the inclusion of the cover How Come by Eminem, a song that Embrace performed, and magnificently so, on the Jo Whiley ' Live Lounge ' show for Radio One.
Of course the usual gripe is that not all b-sides are presented and it is a shame that the excellent Madelaine has been omitted.
Also, comparisons will perhaps be drawn to the singles collection release, Fireworks, but Dry Kids more than stands comfortably and solidly in its own right without needing a ' companion ' tag to give it credence.
Indeed it is another great album from Embrace, a release as important as what has preceded it, and certainly worth waiting for. These outstanding b-sides further indicate and higlight the relevance of Embrace and the importance that their contributions bring to music in general. If anything those fans new to Embrace as a result of Out Of Nothing will feel further justified with this compilation for having joined the bandwagon. Those that have been a part of the journey from the beginning will no doubt punch the air in delight or nod in ecstatic approval.
In fact, probably both!
The good always comes out.
on 24 January 2006
Like many serious music fans I tend to steer well away from 'greatest hits' or leftover B-sides albums but in the case of Embrace their B-Sides have always been full of gems like those assembled on this collection.
In the booklet, guitarist Richard Mc Namara describes many of the songs as merely ideas of songs that never quite came to fruition.
I for one would disagree with this assertion.
In most cases these tracks are equally as poilshed and beautiful as their album tracks and you wonder how the band ever choose material for an album when songs such as Waterfall, Free Ride, Brothers and Sisters [The Gallaghers would kill to be able to write stuff like this again] are relegated to B-Side status.
My only comnplaint - there are enough excellent Embrace B-Sides to fill at least one more disc, so although this is an excellent collection, it only serves to whet one's appetitie to seek out those other B-sides which are not included - ah well maybe next time!!
on 21 February 2006
I have never been a fan of B Sides but I love Embrace so I brought this album.
I have to say I fell in love with it after a few listens.
There are a couple of weak songs, but out of the plenty on here that isnt bad!
The 2 outstanding tracks, which could have easily made the album and singles are Maybe I Wish, which has to be one of my fave Embrace songs ever on any album, (well maybe apart from Gravity) and Love is Back.
This album never needed to be a B Side. It sure is good enough to be on the A List.
on 11 October 2005
For an insight into what this great band are really all about, look no further than Dry Kids (B-Sides 1997-2005).
This is the full spectrum of Embrace at their best... intimate piano and soaring string arrangements alongside abrasive guitar and bold, physchedelic noise.
These tracks used to be hidden away, but now they're justifiably set to take there place in the public domain, on what is definitely the best b-side release I've ever heard.
Buy this album, you won't be disappointed!!
on 4 February 2013
Having heard on the vine that embrace may be back in the studio, I bought this cd has I have all the others and was not one bit disappointed.
on 12 July 2013
The usual rousing anthemic songs from Embrace but they always seem to 'hit the mark' with such songs.Highly recommended purchase.
on 15 August 2013
Every Album by Embrace is a winner as far as im concerned. The usual songs plus emotional Ballads thrown in. Brilliant !
on 24 June 2014
It has got a few gems on it! I mainly got so it completed my Embrace discography. Its not there finest CD!