Album review: Embrace by Embrace

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Eight years is a long time to be away from the music scene. Not that the five members of Embrace have spent the time sunning themselves on the royalties of three previous chart-topping albums.

A lot of the time seems to have been spent nurturing younger bands and beavering away in guitarist Richard McNamara’s Magnetic North studio in Halifax until they felt they had sufficient “killer songs” for another album of their own.

This, their sixth full-length studio set, has an urgency that its 2006 predecessor This New Day lacked.

Mickey Dale’s keyboards are everywhere in the busy early numbers Protection and Refugees; In The End has a hint of New Order about it, especially when Steven Firth’s melodic bass line echoes Peter Hook.

I Run, the Danny McNamara track, is altogether more languid and melancholy. “I hope we make it tonight,” he ruminates, “But there’s no happy ending/We just run out of time.”

Follow You Home has the sort of uplift that shows they taught Coldplay a trick or two in the dim and distant past. If the darkly intoned verses of Quarters seem imported from Interpol, its giddy falsetto chorus of “And I feel myself surrender/I’m your defender” is a welcome stylistic departure.

“When I was six the world looked on/At 60 miles an hour I’d run,” Danny McNamara recalls sweetly in the lighter-waving At Once, but more musically intriguing is his brother’s punky guitar riffing and rapid-fire processed beats in Self Attack Mechanism.

The beats-per-minute quicken in the chorus of The Devil Looks After His Own as Danny McNamara asks “Oh am I speaking tongues/Have I got it all wrong?” before the elegant comedown of A Thief On My Island, a song that’s peppered with arresting images such as “When you’re retching/I’ll be holding your hair”. In true Embrace form, the sound swells to stadium-size as the track draws to a close.

Embrace have got their mojo back.

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