Embrace - Embrace (LP Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE first thing to say about Embrace’s first album in eight years is just how un-Embrace-like it is.
Absent are the brooding piano-based ballads that marked their early work, replaced instead by a heavier reliance on swirling electronic arrangements married to gutsy guitars. True, the tendency to drop big, stadium-sized choruses in the Coldplay tradition remains intact. But this set of songs is much more consistently thrilling than albums of old.
Early evidence of this bold new sound were apparent throughout taster EP Refugees, whose title track remains one of this album’s highlights. Dropping an instantly catchy vibe as well as a huge anthemic chorus with vocals from both McNamara brothers, the electronic undercurrent lends the Embrace sound an urgency that has, perhaps, not always been apparent in their songwriting. The guitars, meanwhile, providing a blistering, U2-style accompaniment.
Similarly impressive was recent single Follow You Home, which again contained the stadium-filling grandeur of acts like U2 and Coldplay, complete with a euphoric chorus, ‘oh-ha oh-ha’ chanting and impassioned lyrics (“but I can’t let go”) over the top of some thrilling instrumentals (guitars and drums).
That’s not to say there aren’t slow builders. At Once is a nod back towards the old days that shows they can still construct a telling ballad, albeit again one that shows a greater sense of urgency.
But in the main, the focus is on keeping things fast moving. Hence, At Once is immediately followed by Self Attack Mechanism, a track that is alive with frenzied, aggressive guitar risks and propulsive beats and an edgy set of vocals. It’s invigorating.
But then there’s very little about this comeback that doesn’t work. Album opener Protection opens in moody fashion before sliding in that new electronic sound around the minute mark (and a beat selection that echoes classic New Order) that, again, grabs your attention.
While In The End also drops some killer hooks and a rapid-fire back-beat that drives the song along in emphatic, toe-tappingly good fashion.
Final track A Thief On My Island, meanwhile, brings things to a suitably epic conclusion, unfolding with pianos before layering in the electronics and gritty guitars to nicely enhance the dark lyrics. If anything, the track carries something of a Depeche Mode vibe about it at times, while retaining the hallmarks of the new Embrace.
Put together, this is an emphatic comeback that has to go down as an unqualified success. Embrace is a ridiculously easy album to, well, embrace.
Download picks: Protection, Refugees, Follow You Home, Self Attack Mechanism, A Thief On My Island