Following in the footsteps of Oasis and the Verve, Embrace became a minor pop sensation in post-Brit-pop Britain in the late '90s. Like Oasis, the group has a knack for big, anthemic hooks, yet they turn these catchy numbers into sweeping, sprawling, lugubrious rockers, much like the Verve. This synthesis earned the group an equal number of critics and detractors, but they were able to cultivate a strong fan base in England with their first singles in 1997, and their 1998 debut album, The Good Will Out.
Natives of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, brothers Danny (lead vocals, guitar) and Richard McNamara (guitar) formed Embrace in the mid-'90s. After placing an advertisement in a local newspaper, the duo recruited drummer Mike Heaton and bassist Steven Firth. After rehearsing for several months, Richard found "Retread" in Danny's demos; the country-tinged song was unlike anything else in the band's catalog, but its anthemic sensibilities became the keystone for their sound and led them toward their signature fusion of Oasis and Verve.
In October 1996, the group signed with the Virgin subsidiary Hut Recordings; in America, they signed with DGC Records. Eager to establish indie credibility, the group released their debut single, "All You Good Good People," on the hip indie label Fierce Panda in February 1997. Over the next few months, it was followed by the singles "Fireworks" and "One Big Family," which were both released on Hut. Those two singles were successful, but the re-release of "All You Good Good People" on Hut in October proved to be their breakthrough, entering the charts at number eight. Released in May 1998 -- shortly after the group received a Brit Award nomination for Best New Band in February -- "Come Back to What You Know" cemented that success and paved the way for the June 8 release of their debut album, The Good Will Out.
Greeted with generally positive, occasionally enthusiastic, reviews, The Good Will Out entered the charts at number one. It was released in America the following month and "All You Good Good People" went on to become a favorite at college radio. While interest in America was fleeting, Embrace continued to woo U.K. fans into the new millennium. Both Drawn from Memory (2000) and If You've Never Been (2001) did fairly well. Keyboardist Mickey Dale had been added to the English four-piece by this time; however, creative differences between the band and Hut were too tough to ignore. Embrace released the Fireworks: Singles 97-02 compilation prior to leaving Hut, and signed with Independiente in fall 2002. The band spent the next two years writing songs for a fourth album. The long-awaited Out of Nothing was issued in the U.K. by the end of 2004, and debuted at number one its first week out. A B-sides compilation, Dry Kids, followed in 2005, and their fifth studio album, This New Day, in 2006.
After this the band would go quiet for several years as its members focused on side projects: Mickey Dale formed Talk to Angels and Mike Heaton opened his own drum school. In 2011, Embrace reconvened to start work on their sixth album, but the sessions became unusually protracted after they decided they didn't want to release anything that wasn't at least the equal of their debut. Several years in the making, the eponymous Embrace finally appeared on Cooking Vinyl in April 2014. The record took the band's sound in new directions; the single "Refugees" incorporated subtle electronic elements and bore some kinship to the post-millennial sounds of Keane and Snow Patrol.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine