How Big How Blue How Beautiful
Somewhat appropriately as everyone gets all nostalgic about Britpop, its tail-end Charlies are back.
Yorkshire's Embrace arrived in 1997 as a slightly hipper, more cerebral Oasis. In Danny McNamara they had a singer of rather dubious consistency, but they had anthems to burn and popped up with regular hits right up until they went into hibernation seven years ago.
So this is a comeback, with a suitably definitive title. It's cannily handled too. Those anthems are present and correct once more – The Devil Looks After His Own and In The End boast massive choruses that overwhelm the odd platitude ("In the end I feel like I've got nothing to say") – but Embrace have also souped up their sound for a new age. Not that the changes feel new, with the greatest stylistic shift being the introduction of doom-goth synths on Protection and A Thief On My Island, but they show a willingness to mix it up at least.
McNamara's signature drone fits this White Lies-y grandeur too, although it's telling that the outstanding track – rich, soaring single Refugees – finds his brother Richard sharing the vocal load. The pair join forces for Follow You Home as well, bringing some urgency to a lumpen mid-album drag that highlights the band's deficiencies. These shortcomings are the same as ever – lapses into empty bombast, samey tunes – but this is certainly a stronger effort than most. A welcome enough return.