The arrival of Embrace's underwhelming third album in 2001 saw them consigned, in some quarters, to the musical scrapheap. That they subsequently produced two chart-topping records proved their star had yet to burn out, which makes the eight year hiatus they've been on puzzling to say the least. However, they now return with an EP to preview their eponymous album, due for release on 28th April, which will be followed by a UK tour in May.
It becomes clear very early within 'Refugees' that the Embrace of 2014 are not the same outfit who were boosted by the Chris Martin penned 'Gravity' a decade ago. The trademark huge, soaring chorus is still very much present, but the reliance on piano melodies has been replaced by a backbone of electronic beats and sequencing. Until the end section, the vocals are in a previously unknown falsetto which isn't a bad thing but certainly takes time to get used to, whilst the climax sees a more familiar "woah woah" hook. It's an enjoyable tune overall and makes the new album an interesting prospect, although it does open up the possibility of alienating parts of their old fanbase, such is the change of style.
If the feature track is a step into new territory for the Yorkshire quintet, the supporting cast is a mammoth leap. The Embrace crate marked 'anthemic chorus hooks' is safely in storage as they produce a dark rock sound on 'Chameleon' that goes well beyond the dynamics of their early work, whilst a touch of The Editors can be heard in 'Decades'. Both are worth consideration even if neither are immediate in their impact and only 'Bullets' is readily discarded. As with 'Refugees', they point toward the new record being a potential unknown quantity, quite a feat for a band about to release their sixth album and not having previously had a reputation as revolutionists.
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