Since emerging with the brilliant ‘Come Back to What You Know’ in 1998, Embrace were key players of the post-Britpop movement. Along with Doves, Starsailor, and Coldplay (who penned ‘Gravity’, one of their biggest hits), their soaring choruses and big production were fit for stadiums, resulting in three chart topping albums.
Embrace’s trademark sound consists of epic piano-led ballads with introspective lyrics. This has been key to maintaining a loyal fanbase, and these elements are present on Love is a Basic Need, the band’s first album in four years. In comparison to their self-titled comeback album, which had a rockier influence, it’s a softer affair and while not their best album, it’s one that should sit well with longtime fans.
It’s clear on listening to Love is a Basic Need that Embrace have tapped into their more emotional side, and it works extremely well in places. The opening piano riff of ‘The Finishing Line’ coupled with Danny McNamara’s soaring epic vocal and thundering drums get things off to a good start. It’s reminiscent of classic Embrace, the anthemic backing vocals adding an extra layer of emotion.
‘Never’ is a beautiful duet featuring Kerri Watt. Both vocals work superbly across an orchestral stripped down backdrop, particularly in the massive chorus. The middle eight where they both sing “Don’t tell me it’s impossible to do/ Don’t try to tell me I’m reachable, it’s you” demonstrates a dark twist, making for an intriguing juxtaposition. It’s pleasing to the ears, and one of the record’s outstanding moments.
Delving into the album further however, there are moments that inspire confidence, while others feel like album filler. For instance, ‘All That Remains’ is a stunning track brimming with introspective emotion. From the soft strings enhancing the atmosphere to the clear sentiment in Danny’s voice, it’s a grandiose epic, following Embrace’s signature formula. It shows a confidence and maturity in their songwriting that tugs on the listeners’ heartstrings. ‘Wake Up Call’ is a huge track, featuring raw acoustic guitars and thoughtful lyrics. The chorus is brilliant; the massive crashing drums lasting long enough to create a solid impact.
On the flipside, there’s ‘My Luck Comes in Threes.’ Unfortunately, it’s a drab drippy ballad that lacks passion and feels predictable and dull. The same can be said for ‘Rabbit Hole.’ Vocally it feels forced, while musically the guitars and strings are bland and don’t have a lot of character.
Closing the album is the brilliant title track. It features mammoth production while Danny belts out the lyrics like he means them. The choir in the background is huge, making its presence felt in the chorus. It gives off an organic feel and would sound perfect in a live environment.
Love is a Basic Need doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s a patchy album with some forgettable duds. However, when Embrace get it right, they take those big choruses and use them to their advantage, bringing the emotion and intensity to the fore. It’s got more than enough to keep longtime listeners satisfied, and is for anyone who likes their indie rock on the emotional side.
Words by Ermis Madikopoulos