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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 1 August 2001
'It's all a lie that everyone has their day,' sings Danny McNamara on 'Wonder', the first single from this fabulous album. Well, perhaps - but it's time Embrace had theirs. 'IYNB' is a far more even album than the previous two. It's mellow, laid-back and smiling: a perfect CD to listen to late at night, driving home beneath a clear, starry sky.
Embrace are well-known for their epics, and they open and close the album with two of their best yet: 'Over' has a beautiful melody and floats along like a butterfly that's had too much nectar; 'Satellites' features Danny's best vocals yet, and the last minute of the song is indescribably lovely.
In between are eight wonderful pop songs. 'Make it Last' and 'It's Gonna Take Time' both sound like future hits; 'I Hope You're Happy Now' sounds a bit like The Littlest Hobo - but in a good way! There are no rock songs like 'One Big Family' or 'New Adam New Eve' which will disappoint some. But as a mood album, IYNB is consistently brilliant. If you like Travis and Coldplay you'll love this.
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on 21 November 2001
Embrace have produced some glorious songs, so it is a shame that they are remembered by people unfamiliar with their work for the anthemic Come Back To What You Know, rather than the enduringly beautiful Fireworks.
With their last two albums, they got so close, but put too much in. With Good Will Out, their ballads and poignant piano-led numbers were overshadowed (or rather bullied) by the more Oasis-like screaming tracks.
With Drawn From Memory, they tried something more eclectic and, whilst it had its moments, as a whole it didn't stand up as well. Despite standout tracks You're Not Alone and the kazoo inspired Hooligan, it all seemed clever but a bit contrived.
Now, with In You've Never Been, despite the uninspiring title (surely an eponymous Embrace album would've been better), they have released an album of ten songs that doesn't have a duff track on it and, if played from start to end, all hangs together very well.
The first track Over is a great opener and sets the standard for the rest of the album. For once, the orchestration on an Embrace track is well balanced with the other elements. I Hope You're Happy Now has a brief but catchy chorus and leads into the first single on the album, Wonder. Not sure what this song is all about, but it works well. Many Will Learn, probably the weakest track on the album, sounds like a Simon and Garfunkel b-side. It's Gonna Take Time ups the tempo at just the right moment, but for once keeps the vocals clear. The best track, Hey, What You Trying To Say, is one you'll keep skipping forward to. Great hook and a brilliantly understated vocal - "Stars remind you you see the best in the dark..."
The next track If You've Never Been In Love With Anything starts on familiar ground, then moves onto a catchy chorus and some tongue-in-cheek Beach Boys-style singalong vocals. Make It Last has a great first line - "Why did you run? I'll always let you leave" - and mirrors Wonder in its structure. But it's a superb track, even though the vocal is not as nearly as good as the single version, for which it was re-recorded.
Happiness Will Get You In The End is the sound of Embrace winding the album down. Played as a whole, at this point you start to realise it's going to end soon... A slow number, Happiness is a great antidote to the preceeding few uptempo songs. It also segues brilliantly into Satellites, which is like one of those brilliant Embrace b-sides that you feel lucky to have stumbled across (Embrace fans will understand!). It has the sound of crashing waves in the background and Danny's voice lets us down gently. It leaves you wanting to press play again and play Over once more.
Danny's vocals are finally coming into their own. I wish in a world where Travis conquer all with their lollipop lyrics and bland live act that Embrace were embraced by more people. This album is a perfect place to start your acquaintance. When will they release a compilation of their b-sides?
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Sometimes it's not the sheen of perfection which we find truly rewarding. Often, rather the faults and flaws which contribute to something's overall beauty hold the key to our enticement; the insecurities, the idiosyncrasies, the little habits and follies which make us what we are, that give us the capacity to yield and receive love. With this in mind it's fitting that Embrace, a band who've often been misrepresented as an exercise in Oasis-lite bluster yet promise so much more, have made a record befitting this description - a collection of moods and feelings, beautifully human yet humanly flawed - rather than a breast-beating attempt at stodgy perfection. They've made an album, not a statement. That the LP opens with "Over", the grandest statement of intent you're ever likely to hear, is curiously fitting in many ways. It's not so much a nod to the rest of the record as closing the book on the opulent anthems of their past, picking up with the ethereal the final word in towering sadness, as the song unfurls from its acoustic cocoon into a multi-part symphony of heartbreak, enriched with a swell of harp strings and strangulated guitar by way of a sumptuous middle-eight carried aloft a weave of vocal harmonies and blissful organ. As a collection of songs "If You've Never Been" is immeasurably more fluid and refined than previous work. Extrapolated from the mellow acoustic timbre of their last LP as opposed to its more raucous moments, Embrace's third outing is the sound of a band who's only pressure manifests in their desire to make music to warm the soul, their only vice that next twist of melody. "If You've Never Been In Love With Anything" thus stands as their finest pop moment to date, a bevy of musical ideas from the stomp-brass Sly Stone intro to joyous West Coast harmonies and the finest Brian Wilson moment he never set to wax. Simon and Garfunkle are lovingly invoked on "I Hope You're Happy Now", whereas elsewhere the brothers' passion for The Flaming Lips shines through in the paired-down "Many Will Learn". However it's in the more heartstrings-by-numbers moments we find the ties are weakest. "Make It Last" is a pretty melody let down by its utter predictability and "Hey, What You're Trying To Say" every inch as clunky alt-country its title suggests. A recurring theme for "If You've Never Been" might be defined as a sense of lessons learnt. This is as much evident in production as in the songs themselves with a "less is more" approach to arrangement helping to retain an oceanic sense of space, one that lesser bands might clutter with instrumental flotsam. Again this is reflecting in the more focused lyrical content of the record, Danny seemingly overpowering his demons in its final approach, eventually exorcising them with a rolling piano lullaby and the notion that "Happiness Will Get You In The End". "Satellites" closes the album in a positive light, with the promise of redemption in the air and as perfect an encapsulation of being in love you're ever likely to hear. It's perhaps lyrically and musically their finest moment to date; shimmering like the north star and as perfectly formed, a jewel in the crown fit to grace any of your favourite records. And in this lies the crux of the matter. The subtleties may be lost on some, others may not be prepared to give "If You've Never Been" the space it needs to breathe and settle - gone altogether is the full-on aural assault of their first record, this is an album that needs to permeate your consciousness in order for its value to be truly appreciated. And it's an astonishing achievement. What's most apparent, however, is that at last this band are beginning to grow the clarity of vision they need to deliver the songs they always promised, in the way we always wanted them.
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on 21 July 2001
Embrace return with their third album, written and recorded in (for them) double-quick time. Following hot on the heels of the creative (though sadly not commercial) successes of the eclectic and accomplished 'Drawn From Memory', 'If You've Never Been' is the band's most introspective and moving album thus far, as well as their most unified and consistent.
Sound-wise, this album is much more organic and free-flowing than previous efforts, the songs are structurally more mature and subtle than on debut album 'The Good Will Out', and stylistically less schizophrenic than on 'Drawn From Memory'. That's not to say that the album isn't varied though - Embrace are far too eclectic in their muse and inspiration to ever be as predictable as Travis or Stereophonics. They are not, as is often thought, masters of stodgy, 'anthemic northern guitar rock', despite what early songs like 'Come Back To What You Know' and 'All You Good Good People' might suggest. One listen to their second album, or a trawl through their high quality b-sides and EP tracks will reveal this.
'If You've Never Been' begins with the towering, staggering pinnacle of 'Over'. Drenched in tumultuous guitar lines and embellished with xylophone, strings, and harp, it moves through itself unlike anything the band have achieved before, building from tiny atmospheric foundations to a heady, bewildering psychedelic climax, before slowly winding back in on itself again, some seven minutes later. Embrace have begun both their previous albums with rousing, neo-psychedelic epics, and 'Over' does not let up on that tradition one bit. Danny McNamara claimed on the band's website recently that finally conquering 'Over' was one of the highlights of his career so far. Listening to it here, one can see why. It is truly awesome.
'Over' is followed by the sweet, melodic anti-industry pop of 'I Hope Your Happy Now', drenched in hooks and immersed in the beatific vibes of Simon And Garfunkel's 'Only Living Boy In New York'. If there are precedents for this album in Embrace's previous canon, then they are 'I Wouldn't Wanna Happen To You' and 'I Had A Time' rather than 'Higher Sights' or 'Come Back To What You Know'. The only nods toward anthemicism come with 'It's Gonna Take Time' and 'Wonder', the first of these being a raucously joyful stomp, and the latter a much more mature, organic and spiritually rewarding hymn to redemption than the band were capable of previously.
The (sort of) title track, 'If You've Never Been In Love With Anything' is a gorgeous, boisterous Beach Boys homage, like Spiritualized playing 'Good Vibrations', replete with gorgeous harmonies, parping brass, spiraling psychedelic guitars, and more hooks than a big strip of velcro. With 'Pet Sounds', Brian Wilson claimed he wanted to make music that "made people feel loved." Looking back at Embrace's career in the light of their third album, it seems as if this has largely been their noble goal right from the start. With 'If You've Never Been' they are now closer to attaining this than ever before.
The richness of sound that Embrace have achieved on this album is astonishing, especially when one considers that it is their cheapest and most quickly recorded album yet. It just goes to show that one can over-egg the pudding, and that Embrace were guilty of this with their debut LP. 'If You've Never Been' however, is sonically sumptuous, atmospheric and evocative from start to finish, as well as containing some of the strongest songs the band have produced so far.
If there are themes to this album, then they are largely those that have run through Embrace's previous work, only now, like the songs and the band, they are subtler and more fully realised. Ideas of redemption through love and self-discovery run through this album, as well as the band's habit of proffering advice to those around them, though this time there is a darker, more introspective tone to much of the album.
The album ends with 'Satellites', a beautiful, empowering song that explicitly reveals the band's heart and soul to the listener. Gorgeously written and played, and lovingly embellished in atmospheric found-sounds, it evokes the most profound feelings, and it's mood is reflected perfectly by the album's cover artwork. Richard's best melody combines with Danny's best lyric and the band's most intuitive and moving arrangement to produce arguably Embrace's most moving song. Even on an album of this quality, it is some achievement.
After a few false starts, a lot of stultifying hyperbole, a great deal of misapprehensions about what the band stood for and wanted to achieve, and far more criticism then they ever deserved, Embrace have produced an album that, by rights, should see the critics fall to their knees and apologise. Whether this will be the case or not remains to be seen. But what is sure, is that 'If You've Never Been' is an extraordinary album by a band who get better and better, and who very few people seem to understand.
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on 26 August 2001
Embrace's third L.P is a record of rare beauty. A cohesive, heartfelt and moving collection of songs that stir the soul and sooth the mind. The band sound assured and comfortable, in full creative flow, and Danny's voice is the best it has ever sounded.
The songs range from the epic bookends of 'Over' and 'Satellites' to the intimate 'Happiness will get you in the end' and 'Many will learn' and one of the first things you notice is how strong these songs really are.
This is Embrace's best effort yet, the sound of a group pursueing a collective vision and reaching it.
Quite possibly album of the year.
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on 25 June 2002
Danny McNamara ...can still shoehorn more emotional force into the opening seven and a half minutes of the cd then most bands can fit into five albums. He's also a clever man. By cunningly starting and finishing the album with two of the most impressive songs he or anyone else will ever write, (Over and Satellites), the largely pedestrian mid-section is effectively disguised. So what if the title track's mid-paced meandering or the fiddly guitar of Make It Last come nowhere near the pop genius of Hooligan, or the raw, fragile beauty of Fireworks? By the time Satellites' keyboards fade into the sunset, we remember why we love this band again. Because they make music for 'the people', and they're damn good at it.
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on 12 September 2001
The latest record from Embrace is a grower, first listen it all sounds the same, but gradually after about 3 listens you extinguish between the tracks and appreciate the quality.
The music is soothing, mellow and the perfect late night wind-down listen. The quality of each track is consistent with no songs standing out as being poor.
A couple of negative things tho, it is only 10 tracks long and seems to be over before it starts sometimes, and it could do with an upbeat track on there to liven things up a bit but maintain the mellow, heart-felt lyrics. Feeder did this particularly well in "Piece by Piece".
Good record, well worth buying.
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on 18 January 2002
This is Embrace's third Album, and it's their best yet. They've roped in Ken Nelson (Coldplay's Producer) to help make this masterpiece with them. And in the process made Coldplay sound like Hear'say. 'Over', 'Wonder' and 'Make it last' are quite simply genius. 'If You've Never been in love with anything' shares the quirkiness of Badly Drawn Boy (another one of Ken's happy customers) with its use of an accordion. And 'Happiness Will Get You in the End' is just beautiful. Listen and You'll understand.
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on 3 September 2002
I don't know what album I bought but it obviously wasn't the same as everyone else. For me 'If You've Never Been' is by far the lesser of Embrace's albums. Whilst 'The Good Will Out' was technically raw, it did have it all. It was full of melody, boasted an array of tempos, with awesome riffs, heartfelt piano and breathtaking brass sections. The only downside to 'The Good Will Out' was that it was only 58 minutes long. Yeah I know. 'Drawn From Memory' then set about correcting some of the over enthusiasm that went into the first record. And to be fair they did achieve this, but it did come at a cost. Whilst the songs were far slicker in their production, some were evidently lacking that X factor that adorned 'The Good Will Out'. 'If You've Never Been' only continued this theme by continuing to improve production at cost to the songs. Now don't get me wrong 'If You've Never Been' isn't bad, its just that its pleasant and that's wherein lies the problem. Songs like 'I Hope Your Happy Now', 'Many Will Learn', 'Its Gonna Take Time', 'Hey What Are You Trying To Say' and 'If You've Never Been In Love With Anything' are nice enough but not songs to jump up and down about. And while the rest are of a higher quality (except the unpleasant 'Happiness Will Get You In The End') they not as proficient as all that came before and hence why 'Wonder' and 'Make It Last' didn't chart too well. Fear not though because Embrace will be back because in Danny McNamara they do have Britain's premier melody maker. For confirmation of this you only have to listen to 'Over', a song that should have been greater than its parts but sadly wasn't. My only hope now is that they continue to move forward because some of their instrumental sections of late have been very impressive, but also take a step back by re-tracing the steps that a few years ago made them Britain's most exciting band.
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on 30 June 2014
i thought that this album came in good time and it was as described. i don't usely do reveiws but the we handwritten no was a nice touch!! thanks
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