After seemingly disappearing from the musical landscape after their third album, Yorkshire quintet Embrace made something of a surprise comeback with consecutive chart toppers in 2004 and 2006. Most bands with such momentum wouldn't wait eight years for their next release, but that's exactly the case here. The end of the hiatus will also see the band imminently hit the road for a headline tour, followed by summer festival appearances at T In The Park and V.
The two singles that have preceded this album have shown very different approaches from the Danny McNamara led group. Whilst 'Follow You Home' was an excellent terrace anthem harking back to their earlier work, 'Refugees' stood out due to an unheralded synthesised sound which ultimately challenges what you think you know of the band. Opener 'Protection' begins in murky fashion before opening into the type of large chorus for which Embrace are famed, before 'In The End' takes the attention with a New Order-inspired romp. What comes next couldn't be any further from the soaring optimism of former hit 'Ashes'; 'I Run' is a sombre baring of the soul from the elder McNamara brother. It is the most emotive vocal performance he has ever produced and is given an appropriate soundscape, climaxing to a vulnerable cry that wraps up a stunning song.
Heading back to the electronics, 'Quarters' is the band's attempt at a club anthem and, while it works better than expected, the shrill falsetto hook line of, "I'd never known another could have suffered like this" is a couple of steps too far in the wrong direction. 'At Once' is melancholic filler, but much better is 'Self Attack Mechanism', an electro-punk juggernaut that has much more attitude than has ever been displayed by the five-piece. Also more than worthy of note is the closing track 'A Thief On My Island'; a colossal mixture of tender piano parts and thumping synthetic beats, but most of all a dejection that makes for powerful song-writing. Sample lyrics, "there's no raising this wreck from the rubble/no escaping, your debts only double" should provide an indication that this is a darker Embrace than previously seen and they're all the better for it. This record contains some of the best material in their catalogue, with a brave change in musical direction paying off in the main.
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