There may very well be no worse punishment for a band than the dreaded Coldplay comparison, the most overused cliché to be offered to any U.K. band featuring a pianist, backup vocals and a falsetto here or there. But for Huddersfield natives Embrace, the association is inevitable.
First signed in 1996 to Hut Records, the band, now a quintet, has slowly evolved over the course of four albums, each reliable but unoriginal. Embrace began as an Oasis-imitator, releasing the The Good Will Out in 1998, four years after Oasis introduced itself with Definitely Maybe. And although Britpop generally offers little variety despite its abundance of participants, Embrace in its most recent resurrection has made a gradual transition from the snarky rock of Oasis to the emotional serenade of Coldplay.
So now we’re halfway through 2005, trying to differentiate Chris Martin from Danny McNamara and wishing McNamara’s falsetto on “Looking as You Are” didn’t sound completely identical to Martin’s. And upon realizing that Coldplay had just formed when Embrace’s first album was released, we start tearing out our hair and pondering the “chicken or egg” concept. So perhaps it’s somewhat bittersweet when we learn that the album’s first single, “Gravity,” which apparently took Out of Nothing to number one in the United Kingdom and prevented Embrace from splitting when the end was nigh, was penned by Mr. Paltrow himself.
I can’t help but feel just a bit of pain for the band that admits to being saved by someone else’s song. Even with this pleasantly surprising turnaround from the band’s older material, each song within it a radio-ready anthemic ballad, I’m not sure how far this “new direction” can be taken before Embrace’s McNamara brothers (the other being lead guitarist Richard) completely lose inspiration. Their remaining nine (self-written) tracks were selected from more than five-hundred bits and pieces of song, and it would be intriguing to learn if there was anything more specifically “Embrace” buried in that pile of ideas than what was recorded.
The band’s fourth record contains a recurring theme of examining the past and resurrection (literal, not spiritual), and although these songs of attempted triumph comprise the band’s strongest material yet, they still lack the originality that will shed them of the “underrated” label they’ve worn for the last decade.