» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Out of Nothing
Lava Records

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

July 21, 2005
Whatever happens, nothing is going to get Embrace down. Just as anger is a form of energy - Johnny Lydon's words, not mine - so is optimism. With Embrace, energy takes the form of radiant sonic solar power and fuels the soaring, orchestral anthems of Out of Nothing, the latest from the most positive force in Brit-pop today. "Watch me rise up and leave/all the ashes you made out of me," sings Danny McNamara in "Ashes", and in light of the recent suicide bombings in London, it seems like a sweeping chorus that could galvanize a grieving nation; it's that powerful and triumphant.

It's also been done before. Should I go down the list? Obviously, there's Coldplay, the band that started this Brit-pop trend toward emotional, piano-based epics. Behind them, coming off the assembly line, you've got your Keane, your Mercury, your Travis, your Elbow, your Starsailor, your Ed Harcourt… you get the idea. You can trace the lineage all the way back to Radiohead, then to the Verve and U2 (especially in their early years). But unlike Bono and the Edge, Embrace and its Brit-pop brethren have discovered strings and they're not afraid to use them.

On Out of Nothing, Embrace even get a little help from The London Session Orchestra - as if they needed a bigger, more arena-friendly sound. God help me, I've fallen for it. As predictable as their loud-soft dynamics are, as sickeningly melodramatic as the strings become and as slavishly the band emulates their heroes, Embrace still sweeps me off my feet. It's the ringing guitars and crashing piano waves of "Keeping" that get to me; it's that darkest-before-the-dawn attitude of "Ashes" and the hopeless romanticism of the aching, crescendo-seeking ballad "Gravity" - written by a friend of the band, Coldplay's Chris Martin - that sends me reeling. And even when Embrace cheats and copies their homework off that same friend (as they do in the decidedly "Yellow"-like "Looking As You Are"), you want to chastise them, but you can't. You just take your significant other's face in your hands and serenade them.

What's most exasperating about Embrace is that they tend to stick to tried-and-true arrangements that go only in one direction: up and up, like a host of vividly colored helium balloons escaping from a child's hand. Formulaic to a fault, every song keeps rising until it exhausts itself, as if it's a rocket flown by astronauts who realize the ship is losing fuel, but the crew has gone too far and can't turn around.

Exploding like fireworks against a night sky, Out of Nothing sees Embrace on the rebound (a fact evidenced by the cover, which shows the quintet in a show-of-solidarity huddle). A few years ago, a record label merger left them stuck on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean without a home in the States. Now, thanks to Lava, Embrace is landing on our shores with the latest British Invasion. No, Embrace isn't bigger than Jesus, but when you hear the heraldic guitars and the canyon-sized harmonics of Out of Nothing, you start to wonder if maybe He is thinking about a comeback.

With Embrace, it's like there is a fissure growing ever wider in the ozone that keeps spreading open until it bursts, and The Polyphonic Spree, in all their robed glory, come spilling out. That moment of orgasmic release comes in the chorus of "Someday", as McNamara and his backing choir let it all hang out, belting out life-affirming platitudes like "A light is going to shine," and "You will feel the way I feel someday."

Maybe we will feel that way, or maybe we'll get sick of being with such a one-trick pony. If only Embrace gave us more of the spacey, Mercury Rev-style psychedelia of "Near Life" (sans McNamara's poorly mumbled vocals), it'd be easier to forgive their lack of imagination. Still, Out of Nothing is an enormous mural of angelic melodies, and most of the time, McNamara's rich tenor is simply stunning. Out of Nothing sails on celestial seas and rides out dual guitar asteroid showers to touch Heaven. If the band stays the course, they will succumb to storms of criticism, but if they are willing to experiment, we could be talking about the next Radiohead. Yeah, I know; you've heard that one before.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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