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Embrace - Love Is A Basic Need (Album Review)

Wednesday, 07 March 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

Following a seven year hiatus, indie-rockers Embrace resurrected their career in superb fashion on 2014’s electronically flavoured self-titled effort. But, rather than continuing down that road, they have immediately returned to their signature sound on ‘Love is a Basic Need’, an uneven record that’s bogged down by an overload of decent, but rarely spectacular, ballads.

After arriving in 1998 with ‘The Good Will Out’, brothers Danny and Rich McNamara’s crew became the missing link between the swaggering Britpop acts that preceded them and sensitive indie bands (Coldplay, Keane etc) who followed.  Whether you hold that against them or not will be subjective, but at their best Embrace are very good at crafting tear-jerking love songs and rousing festival singalongs.

Numerous moments on ‘Love is a Basic Need’ – the seventh record of their career – emphasise that very skillset. My Luck Comes in Threes is a swaying, arms aloft anthem that showcases the McNamaras’ hook writing at its finest.

Snake Oil – a despairing tale about an imperfect relationship – reminds us just how much of an influence they were on Chris Martin as it patiently builds to a distressed, gut-wrenching finale.  

Elsewhere, the standout All That Remains offers a vintage bridge to chorus transition as it stealthily burrows under the skin. Never features guest singer Kerri Watt and is another tune that gracefully increases the tension until the band kicks in and it soars. The delicately enchanting Horseshoe In My Glove’s minimal piano aesthetic, meanwhile, offers a nice contrast to the orchestral bombast of most these songs.

Yet such emotionally grandiose songs are only one side of what one might term ‘classic Embrace’. The other is the up-tempo rockers like One Big Family, Ashes or Celebrate. Alas, that’s where this record falters. Aside from the claustrophobic Where You Sleeping, delivered with vituperative confusion by Rich, everything is astonishingly one paced on an album where guitar textures have mostly been banished to the background.  

Every song starts slowly and rarely gets out of a mid-tempo gait, which poses the question: can you have too many lofty, rhapsodic ballads? ‘Love is a Basic Need’ suggests you can, especially when a number of the choruses just aren’t up to standard.  

Wake Up Call is impressively epic but, much like The Finish Line, its refrain is good rather than sensational. Rabbit Hole is a hook-free zone encircled by bluster, and the title track’s pay off – despite being fattened up by a choir – never achieves lift off.

That said, in terms of their shared sonic palette and thematic focus, these songs cohere together very well because they’re all unswervingly raw, complex accounts of imploding relationships and the aftermath. The music certainly suits the prevailing mood, but more variety could easily have been employed without sacrificing that overarching vision.

Those who were turned off by Embrace’s last effort will undoubtedly lap up this stylistic retreat. You can’t fault the passion and heart-wrenching sentiments within these songs, but ultimately the overall dip in quality, and repetitive nature of the material, makes it a disappointing follow up to an album that was a brave, bold and brilliant rebirth.

Embrace Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed March 28 2018 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Thu March 29 2018 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Riverside
Fri March 30 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Sat March 31 2018 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Sun April 01 2018 - CARDIFF Tramshed
Tue April 03 2018 - SOUTHAMPTON Engine Rooms
Wed April 04 2018 - NORWICH Epic Studios
Thu April 05 2018 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Fri April 06 2018 - LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Sat April 07 2018 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds

Click here to compare & buy Embrace Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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