West Yorkshire five-piece Embrace have been enveloping the UK and beyond since the mid to late nineties. Their early singles, such as “All You Good Good People,” “Come Back To What You Know,” and “Fireworks,” demonstrated a capacity for The Big Music as broad as their ambition, in a landscape at the time dominated by Oasis, Verve, and OK Computer. Like Oasis, and indeed The Kinks long before them, there are two brothers in the group: guitarist Richard and vocalist Danny McNamara.
These lank haired-yet-statuesque idealists share a vision of sweeping millennial indie rock, married with Danny’s keening, persuasive, aspirational vocals, constantly living up to the band name. Arriving at the time they did, Embrace were caught up in the ‘arrogant indie’ phenomenon – led by the Gallagher brothers and The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft – but the band were anything but. However much the producers try to manipulate Danny McNamara’s very human voice, it’s impossible – this is intimate, genuine humility, made aural.
Influence-wise, Embrace occasionally enjoy standing on the shoulders of (contemporary) giants, sometimes favouring the bouncing bark of Liam Gallagher here, or employing Coldplay’s Chris Martin’s see-sawing piano lullabies there. As noted, their ambitions are vast. However they pay back, as the influenced must, by sounding closer, more real, and somehow more conversational than any of these peers – while retaining the widescreen, arena-sized bombast.
Through firstly the brilliant Fierce Panda label, subsequently Independiente, and now Cooking Vinyl, with albums such as Drawn From Memory(2000), If You’ve Never Been(2001), Out Of Nothing(2004), and This New Day (2006) - three of these reaching UK number 1 - the band have remained close to the public’s heart, too. Embrace have been on an ever inclining trajectory, through comeback after comeback being seen as true nineties survivors (Br*tpop doesn’t need mentioning). Last year’s self-titled opus proved their enduring appeal by reaching the top 5, following on from lead-off single, “Refugees.”
Two decades on from The Good Will Out, Embrace are understandably older and wiser, though the clear-eyed, distinctly northern-flavoured idealism remains. The fireworks still go off when needed, and Danny McNamara is still looking to a sunrise on the horizon – but resembles now more a gracefully dignified, long-maned Aslan compared to the playful cub of way back when. Henri Matisse said “I want my paintings to be like a comfortable armchair” – the McNamara brothers want the same. Fall back into their waiting arms.
By Sean Bw Parker