“Coming back to what you know won’t mean a thing…”
If coming back means losing sight of what you were there for in the first place, there’s really no percentage in returning. In an age that’s produced more comebacks than the Boomerang Olympics, it’s easy to treat regenerations with a degree of scepticism. In the case of Embrace, however, rather than grabbing at the coattails of former glories, a seven-year hiatus was precipitated by the most commercially successful high-point in their career.
Having notched up another number one album and scored their highest placing in the UK singles chart with Nature’s Law, the band simply decided to head back home to Brighouse, West Yorkshire, and call it a day. The album This New Day being a false dawn, the five-piece strode into the sunset with success still snapping at their heels. Curious behaviour, for a band whose 1998 debut The Good Will Out was one of the fastest-selling British albums ever. But for some, success is not the pinnacle of pursuit…
“We were a bit fried after the last album,” singer Danny McNamara says. “Things went really well, from a commercial point of view, but I think we lost sight of what we were about and what we really wanted to do.
“You can tend to get swallowed up in the mechanics of it all. We just got to a stage where we didn’t really recognise ourselves. We just needed a break from it and needed to regroup.”
And regroup they did, but not in the egalitarian manner in which the last album was made – essentially a studio-based group effort – the McNamara brothers instead returning to their solo-writing mandates, producing over 100 tracks in the interim – ten of which make up the monolith that is their latest calling card, the eponymous Embrace.
McNamara explains: “It just feels like we’re starting over again – almost like we’re doing our first album again. And that’s why we called it Embrace, cos it’s like we’re redefining ourselves. Loads of titles came out, but they felt quite limiting. Calling it Embrace just felt right.”
And it really does feel right. With the new album, the band have mined their very essence and delivered a piece of work that reaches the core of what Embrace have always been about – the music of the soul. As a group, Embrace have always inspired a fervid and devoted following – not because fashion dictated (quite the contrary, in fact), but because theirs was always a sound and a voice that felt real. And with their long-awaited sixth offering, Embrace have come back to what they know – how to stir the heart and make you reach for the stars. Few other bands are able to inspire such ardent devotion; with Embrace, the love-in might just eclipse the initial surge.
Stephen Brolan, January, 2014
*A longer version of this biography will be published shortly.