Tom accused me of dangling the ‘Embrace carrot’ at Record Club last time out, so I thought this week, sans theme, I’d hit him with the ‘Embrace stick’, and play the whole of their new album.
I’ve written about my weird relationship with this band at great length in other corners of the internet, so I shan’t bother going into it all again. I’ve also written thousands of words just about this record already, and listened to it about 40 times, which is just nuts. I think I’m insane when it comes to this band. Oh well. I’m very happy to be so; sometimes it’s brilliant fun and very rewarding. Other times it’s annoying and confusing. Oh well.
Embrace will always write ‘big’ songs, and some people will always hate that; that’s OK. People literally just hear music differently, as we’ve established here over the last three years. This record is stuffed full of mammoth choruses and chewable melodies and middle eights and hooks and sonic touches that draw on everything from post-metal to dubstep to stadium rock to New Order and a whole load of other stuff. It’s not the kind of record that lends itself to a record club listening context; any ‘aesthetic contemplation’ comes a little later on, after the tunes have embedded themselves and you can unravel them; also, for me, it packs a massive emotional punch that just wont exist for some other people. I’ve done a lot of unravelling, and this is an amazingly well produced record; it sounds utterly fabulous in how it’s mixed and mastered, unlike pretty much any mainstream rock record I’ve heard in years (and unlike most ‘alternative’ records, too, for that matter).
Anyway, as well as choruses and melodies and middle eights and hooks, they’ve added a host of synth and dance sounds to their palette; keyboards have always been prominent but never quite like the subdued, droning synthesizer oscillation that begins the opening track (which we talked all over so people probably only noticed the massive chorus and none of the subtlety). They’ve done stuff I always wanted them to do but which they never quite got round to, for whatever reason, and, compellingly, they’ve done it entirely themselves; no record company, no A&R, no producer, no engineer, no deadlines and no budgets. They sound like a new band making a really precocious debut album with a super-producer, rather than a load of 40-somethings who’ve been through the record industry mincer over and over again (unless you pay close attention to the words, perhaps). I’m delighted; I love this record.
Rob listened: I can’t remember all that much about ‘Embrace’, but that’s okay. I’m less interested in this band than I am in the relationships we make with bands and how some weather the storms, remaining strong despite rising and falling tides of critical opinion and cultural capital and others just fall away. I totally get Nick’s feelings for Embrace, and part of that is the acceptance that others won’t feel the same uneven, irrational but unshakeable and ultimately deeply rewarding passion. Who cares? Nick wins.
I can’t tell you too much about the record as we talked all over it and I can’t listen back to it without attempting to find a leaked copy. It sounded okay, some surprising elements, some familiar. I got that sense of a band trying to push themselves beyond their comfort zone and it certainly seemed to be producing interesting sounds at times.
Tom listened: Well, the good news is that this didn’t really sound anything at all like Oasis (thanks to Graham for reminding us just how much Embrace sounded like Oasis on the their first album by playing us a track from it on what turned out to be ‘Embrace’ night). It was much better than that. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, in probably much the same way as Nick quite enjoyed Real Estate. Some interesting ideas, one cracker of a tune about half way through…but, overall, a bit too ‘big’ for me.
Graham listened: I’ll get round to this album in a minute, but I have been ‘stalked by Embrace for some weeks now. They had a mention a few weeks ago and I felt inspired to unearth the ‘Good Will Out’ from its dusty home and gave it a spin. It then followed me in the car and hung around the house for 2 weeks. I enjoyed its celebratory moments but found myself induced into a melancholy stupor by many of the tracks and kept requiring repeated exposure to maintain the reduction in my pulse rate. I have no particular need these days to feel in such a way and I can only be thankful this album remained hidden in the cupboard during last Autumn.
After I played a track at this round, Nick then compounded my predicament by lending me ‘Drawn from Memory’ and ‘Dry Kids’. While I’ve enjoyed the more upbeat/frivolous tracks on both, I have been gorging myself on the deeper ballads. I’ve bought my daughter the songbook for their debut, so I can hear the piano parts on ‘Thats all changed ….’ and the ‘Good will…’ out on demand, well once she’s learnt them.
I never really got the Oasis, Verve, Coldplay etc. references to Embrace, as I never really listened to those other bands. I just thought their debut was a fantastic record and couldn’t understand why more people weren’t excited by them. Strangely I never bought any of the other albums but that will change following recent exposure.
As for this album, having read a little about its long gestation, I suppose I was maybe expecting it to sound a little more “out there”, but I’ll only be in a position to comment once I have a copy and am able to feed my growing ‘habit’.
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