Out Of Nothing
t's hard to be an objective parent. Whereas before Embrace always harboured that tendency to fuss over minutiae, to pore over every detail with such attention that betrayed self-consciousness, their fourth studio album, Out Of Nothing, finally sees them free of their own fastidiousness. It wasn't that they ever did anything especially wrong. It’s just that sometimes you can care so much—too much—as to lose your perspective. By bowing to producer Youth as their musical Tsar, Embrace have reached emancipation through concession and in doing so allowed themselves the space to grow. Sometimes it’s good to lose control.
Embrace’s weapon of choice has always been the Chorus—and boy, do they chorus. There are precious few who come close to matching the quintet in this particular ring; the skill of burrowing into your cerebellum to register blow after melodic blow, demanding the attention of every sinew and synapse until you’re unwittingly punching the air in public like a pop-fuelled automaton. You are but a puppet to their string section.
To wit, “Ashes” and “Someday” are simply peerless examples of lionising gospel-rock, of this band’s ability to turn three chords into an impossible ascension into the heavens one minute and then veer them headlong into a wall of noise the next. “Keeping” represents the zenith of a lineage traceable back to those first faltering notes of their debut cut, its DNA positively cross-matched with earlier work but clearly augmented by experience and a courage of conviction not always so bold. “Spell It Out” cascades a torch-bearing refrain over five poptacular minutes and a feather-light bed of orchestration, and whilst “Wish ‘Em All Away” might be the kind of thing Embrace knock out between yawns, its complex sonic strata and ferocious middle eight ensure that your attention is rapt beyond the plodding principal refrain.
Even the record’s comparatively lesser moments are propelled with such fresh impetus as to elevate them well clear of the bar, not least lead single “Gravity”, tellingly one of three songs not to bear the standard McNamara/McNamara accreditation. Embrace’s creative engine is now more centralised than before, in contrast to the previous front-wheel drive of the brotherly songwriting axis, and in terms of maximising resources and mapping new ground this can only be considered a Very Good Thing.
For it’s toward the album’s climax that the anthemic tide relents in favour of the band’s oft-overlooked penchant for the different, as Out Of Nothing unfolds into territories little explored. “Near Life” was sewn together meticulously from studio jams and broken lines of half-muffled vocal and precipitates before your ears like smoke from a magic lamp. The title track stirs from its balladesque slumber to reveal a creature of furious vitriol, bleeding feedback as threads of weathered guitar flap about the percussive storm.
Someone once wrote of Embrace that they “fly like a ballerina but land like a council house”. Out Of Nothing sees them take off like an Exocet, obliterate all targets and then ricochet off under their own control. The album is validation of itself, a record about recovering from the precipice; fighting and winning in the name of something you know to be right. It’s a sense of lessons learnt, of finally finding your aim, and ends with the promise of reprise. This in itself could be considered a monumental victory for a band who’ve never seen over the side of the hill.
STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM’S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: SEPTEMBER 13 – SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
Reviewed by: Karim Adab
Reviewed on: 2005-06-10