spinning top turns in slow motion and accrues layers with every revolution; each layer seamlessly binding with the last. A soft, vaguely rhythmic sample binds to a simple riff that sounds as hopeless as it could, waltzing into a meadow of bass, strings and keys. The guitar becomes live and caramelises, sealing everything you’ve heard in the last thirty-four seconds with a synthesised wave that crashes against absolutely nothing at all.
If it weren’t for Embrace, I wouldn’t be writing for Stylus. I probably wouldn’t be writing at all. I wouldn’t have had my first love when I did, and I wouldn’t have had the same friends I did, for however long I had them. Its true that singer Danny McNamara might be singing about yet another failed relationship, but he’s never done it with so much grace. Two minutes in, the song’s volcano erupts; covering the Earth with molten harp and percussion—layer after layer, and the waves crash against the sky as he sings, “I know that this feeling won’t last” like a man desperate to be proved right.
These days, I scarcely talk to anybody who still feels anything for the band. Some people I cast aside myself, others did the same to me. Some simply had me languish on some long-forgotten shelf—just like my copy of Come Back To What You Know. For a long time, and for reasons that encompass far more than a difficult third album, I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to Embrace’s music. That is of course, all apart from “Over”.
That opening riff flexes over the opening lines of each verse, releasing pent-up energy over the refrain “Now, it’s over”. Then something else altogether happens. At just shy of three minutes, Richard McNamara’s guitar rejects precision in favour of a renewed vigour that underlines his brother’s sobering voice of frustration. Put simply, it goes mental, quietly, in the corner. Operating at several times the tempo of every other instrument used in the song, this hidden treasure is one of “Over”’s most invaluable attributes.
When the band released their last album, 2001’s If You’ve Never Been, many were deceived by the false labour of the opening song. With “Over”, Embrace inhaled the weight of the world once more. With the rest of If You’ve Never Been, all hurried and ill-formed, they petulantly sighed it back out over the subsequent nine songs that made up the record.
Four minutes and eight seconds: everything comes to a halt in a middle eight that undoubtedly stands as the song’s centrepiece. The falsetto vocal that intermittently told us to “wait” throughout the song’s instrumental epiphanies raises its game, and is joined by harp and synthesised percussion—which is now a train slowly coming home. In utter despair, McNamara delivers his own condemnation: “…for a hope in this hell/…I should stay right down here—where I fell”, all the while his unusually world-beating vocal performance says otherwise—reeking of ripe hope throughout.
To me, “Over” represents anything that ever ended, ever. “Over” assured me that the decisions I’d made, as well as the decisions others had made for me, were most definitely the right ones. And well, the band were never going to redeem themselves, were they? “Over” was the way to remember my time with Embrace.
Now, in one last breathtaking twist of fate, it could just be time to celebrate the future. Embrace return this week with their first long-player in three years. Out Of Nothing is the Stylus album of the week, and definitely one of the albums of the year.
The weight of impatience is almost too much. Yes, I fell out of love—as so many did. And just like in the aftermath of any relationship that meant anything, I promised myself I’d be more sensible next time. Thankfully, we don’t always take our own advice. I’m in love again and it’s better than ever. Listening to Out Of Nothing and “Over”, it seems like Embrace feel the same.
By: Colin Cooper
Published on: 2004-09-15