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Bands from the village of Bailiff Bridge, near Brighouse in West Yorkshire, were non-existent until Irish-rooted songwriting brothers, Danny (lyrics) and Richard McNamara (music) of EMBRACE enveloped the Britpop scene; a subsequent move to the equally pop-barren market town Huddersfield gave them a base to prove their worth. By 1998, the group had come of age with three Top 10 singles (`All You Good Good People’, `Come Back To What You Know’ and `My Weakness Is None Of Your Business’), all taken from companion No.1 album, `The Good Will Out’.
Although one could trace the siblings back to demo efforts from an outbuilding at the bottom of their garden in 1990, EMBRACE were truly formed in 1993 after abandoning nom de plumes Curious Orange et al. The story was that bassist at the time, J Senior, wrote to the defunct American band of the same name starring FUGAZI’s Ian MacKaye to request written permission. A demo recorded in nearby Huddersfield, a video shot in Leeds, and further activities stretching between Manchester and Leeds (one could search out a track on a cassette freebie w/ fanzine “The Express She Pulled”), in 1995, their manager roped in a fresh bassist Steve Firth and “proper” sticksman Mike Heaton (to supersede the drum machine).
Cutting their debut at the stamping ground for many a great act, Fierce Panda Records, who’d saw potential in their stunning OASIS-esque grandeur, the 7-inch `All You Good Good People’ resonated with indie fans east and west. Virgin subsidiary Hut Records would have the clout and know-how to appeal to the Britpop-affiliated EMBRACE, having already catapulted The VERVE, PLACEBO and Americans The SMASHING PUMPKINS to the top of the heap.
EMBRACE made an almost immediate impact on the Top 40, with the 4-track EP `Fireworks’, increasing their chart exposure via further summer ‘97 follow-up, `One Big Family’. However, the pop nation finally clutched EMBRACE to their proverbial bosom with the re-issue of `All You Good Good People’, which cracked the Top 10 in the fall. The much vaunted songwriting siblings equalled the feat with the aforementioned `Come Back…’ and `My Weakness…’ hits, squeezed either side of their chart-topping debut album, THE GOOD WILL OUT (1998) {*8}; it knocked SIMPLY RED’s `Blue’ from off its pedestal. While Danny could almost be accused of being shy in comparison to charismatic Britpop showmen Liam Gallagher, RICHARD ASHCROFT or THOM YORKE, the man could simply let the music do the talking.
Toward the end the decade and with part-timer/keyboardist Mickey Dale (ex-CUD) now their official 5th member, EMBRACE previewed their forthcoming sophomore set via a Top 20 hit, `Hooligan’. When it finally arrived (on the back of `You’re Not Alone’), DRAWN FROM MEMORY (2000) {*6} revealed a more mature band, conscious of their more overblown tendencies and determined to pare their sound down somewhat. Thus the Britpop-inspired bitter-sweet symphonies which characterised the album’s predecessor wasn’t quite so conspicuous, although the record’s highlights were still centred around soul searching balladry such as the title track. In the event, the album, in addition to making the Top 10 itself, spawned a further couple of big hitters in the shape of `Save Me’ and `I Wouldn’t Wanna Happen To You’.
Although the worst excesses of orchestration had been reined in, EMBRACE seemed to be working with the philosophy that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If so, it was an ethos that ensured them a Top 10 placing for IF YOU’VE NEVER BEEN (2001) {*5}, and descending-scale singles, `Wonder’ (#14) and `Make It Last’ (#35).
Finding a natural home at Independiente Records (as did rivals TRAVIS and PAUL WELLER), the lads proved with chart-topper OUT OF NOTHING (2004) {*7}, they could well be the missing link between latter-period PINK FLOYD, OASIS and Chris Martin – British and anthemic to the core. The presence of said COLDPLAY as songwriters on attendant Top 10 hit `Gravity’ (`Ashes’ was also to soar high chart-wise), suggested they kept their influences as close as their harmonies; `Looking As You Are’ and `A Glorious Day’ solidified the Martin Glover-produced comeback with aplomb. However, Americans just couldn’t see the attraction.
The Youth-produced THIS NEW DAY (2006) {*6} gave EMBRACE back-to-back No.1 albums, with Danny’s vocal prowess in evidence on the classy, near chart-topper `Nature’s Law’. Following in the grand tradition of The LIGHTNING SEEDS and NEW ORDER, the quintet were melodiously capped for England with the official World Cup song, `World At Your Feet’, a record that also went Top 3. Although their nation failed once again to lift any honours, EMBRACE had built enough support for `Target’ (#29) and `I Can’t Come Down’ (#54).
The McNamara siblings then stated their would be an indefinite hiatus for the 5-piece, though a bored Mickey Dale formed his own short-lived outfit Talk To Angels, whilst Heaton opened up a drum school. By 2011, the McNamara’s and EMBRACE were up and running once more, albeit without much sense of urgency in their meticulous writing process. Shelving session after session as they switched labels to Cooking Vinyl, a lead single/EP (`Refugees’) eventually came out in January 2014. A taster from their long-awaited self-titled sixth album (8 years since their previous excursion), EMBRACE {*6} clocked in at No.5, giving older fans, not ready to relinquish their Britpop badges, a chance to wax lyrical – and maybe sing-a-long – to the poor-man’s COLDPLAY-meets-NEW ORDER synth-friendly hooks of `Protection’, `In The End’ and the download promo-single, `Follow You Home’.
Similar chart returns for 2018’s LOVE IS A BASIC NEED {*7} endeared EMBRACE once again into the hearts and minds of their devotees; one could almost sniff the butane lighter-fuel for the soaring festival-friendly power ballads such `Wake Up Call’, `Never’ (featuring a duet with Kerri Watt) and the closing title track. Fans wishing to find an album of revival Britpop fodder from Danny McNamara and Co, they’d be disappointed, because this record was defined by a soul-searching sobriety (other examples `Where You Sleeping’ and `All That Remains’).
© MC Strong 2000-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2016-Mar2018

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