The middle of the road is an inherently bad place to be. You cause accidents with the people approaching and you annoy the hell out of the people following. So stop. Pull over, take a turning out of the centre lane of mediocrity into the service station of blissful retirement and let the rest of us continue our journey in peace.
Embrace were so nearly there, chowing down at the Happy Eater and boring lorry drivers with stories of how they used to be famous. But then last album Out Of Nothing unexpectedly rose to the top of the charts, renewing their vigour and setting them back on the road to nowhere, and it’s a momentum that has carried them onto this, their fifth studio release.
Unsurprisingly, it’s another collection of MOR plodders, taking cues from people who do it bigger (U2), people who do it better (Coldplay) and people who should never have done it at all. Ever (Roxette).
Credit where it’s due though, because after scraping away at the bottom of the barrel for so long, This New Day sees the musical equivalent of gastroenteritis finally break through onto the cold floor underneath. It’s a swirling mass of overblown, meaningless, laughable sentimentality (“Everything is possible / it’s beautiful!”), massively over-the-top production, and a horrible insistence on trying to make everything anthemic and poignant, which makes it all about as moving as a trip to Ikea to buy bran.
It starts badly. Nature’s Law is the aforementioned Swedish duo’s Listen To Your Heart crossed with The Darkness‘ Christmas single to stultifying effect, while No Use Crying’s if-you-can’t-beat-’em-rip-’em-off version of Coldplay’s Clocks ably demonstrates that, while there may be no use, sometimes crying is all you feel like doing.
It then sags in the middle. Sainted wants to be Elevation by Bono & co. so much that it’s already started wearing sunglasses indoors and campaigning against third world debt, and the lyrics on display in Even Smaller Stones are just plain bizarre (“I will break your rubble into even smaller stones!” Huh? You will? Why? Are you laying foundations or something?). Then, against all expectations, it really tails off towards the end.
They try so hard, but the main reason why Embrace fall flat when reaching for all-encompassing, “let’s round everyone up and sway”, balladering, is the epic lack of charisma they display. That, and the fact that Danny McNamara still doesn’t so much sing as send out a call for Wookies in heat.
This New Day isn’t bad. It’s catastrophic. It’s a flesh eating endemic of a record, a two core nuclear meltdown of an album, a Hindenburg zeppelin of an LP, and coming from a band who always promise so little, that’s verging on miraculous. Oh, and the sleeve is vile.