Its biggest moments are huge, and there are plenty of them, marking this eighth album as one of their better efforts
Embrace are, it would be fair to say, a bit like Marmite on the love/hate front, but what you see is what you get from this bunch of likeable, down to earth Yorkshiremen. Yet eighth studio album How To Be A Person Like Other People has not been easy to predict in regards of what to expect. In recent years they’ve occasionally ventured away from their regular template to dabble in other areas, none more so than the impressive Quarters from 2014’s eponymous effort (if we exclude some of the completely curveball efforts such as Hooligan from the disappointing Drawn From Memory). Quarters was everything the band weren’t, really, and it wasn’t the only example. Yet their new album is far more Embrace than the album of the same name.
Just like every other band over lockdown, ideas were sent pinging this way and that via electronic networks as the outfit worked in their separate spaces to piece together the whole, and by the time recording came around, ideas were far more fleshed out than they normally would be for a band happy to spend months in a studio perfecting an album. This time things were much quicker as the tracks were pretty much ready to go and confidence must have been high too, as ideas that were felt not to be working out were soon dropped and their place filled by one of many other ideas the band had been working on during their isolation.
Danny McNamara is a far happier soul these days, after some 10 years of marriage with earlier splintered relationships having served as catalysts for much of his lyrics in the past now being replaced by far more optimism and love as he produces some of his most intimate moments on record. We Are It is a prime example, being about his wife, and despite it sounding typically generic and predictable it has its moments, if lacking the grandiosity it yearns for. Elsewhere, though, things sound huge.
Opener Death Is Not The End is more optimistic than revelatory, but it’s spectacular from its rolling piano intro to its powerful core and rousing chorus; this is what Embrace do so well and what fans have often hoped for at every turn. Up also swells to a humungous size although the track is so reminiscent of All I Want Is You by Bono and co., you wonder if the ‘p’ should have been replaced by a ‘2’ for its title; however, it is indeed epic, again showing that when Embrace go all in for massive anthemic beasts, they generally succeed comfortably.
Taking its name from the Joker movie, the title track is probably the biggest of the lot; developing into a catchy singalong in the style of the band’s debut, it’s clearly a close cousin to the album’s own title track The Good Will Out and when lead vocals switch from Danny to Richard McNamara the track soars into the stratosphere. Another lengthy six minute plus track The Terms Of My Surrender is a decent slow building monster with sparkling guitar and strings that add emotion and depth to an already sizeable behemoth with The National like verses leading to more impressive heights.
I Miss You follows the same gradient after starting life as a soft piano ballad before blasting off whilst another piano led number – Remember Me – appears like a ghostly spectre of what the band have done before along these lines, achingly intimate lyrics such as “I miss you”, “remember me” oozing sadness but the track doesn’t quite deliver as well as they’ve managed to in the past with these dalliances. Power ballad Rubble also falls short, clearly aiming for the skies but merely reaching the ceiling, if anything.
How To Be A Person Like Other People sits comfortably among its peers in the Embrace back catalogue. Its biggest moments are huge, and there are plenty of them which will ensure a great reception from their die-hard fanbase; that it isn’t as consistent as it could have been – see the debut for that – probably doesn’t matter too much because its target audience is already in place. For a band that have endured more than their fair share of unjust criticism though, it’s up there with their better efforts.