993 - Embrace 'The Good Will Out' (1998)

My Rating: 1.93 out of 5
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: X
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: X
The Mojo Collection: X

Chart Peak (UK/US): 1/--

Favourite Tracks: Come Back To What You Know, Higher Sights
Least-Favourite Tracks: The Good Will Out

If you took Oasis, Coldplay and the Verve and shoved them all into a giant blender (now there's an idea) the Britpop smoothie that you produced would have a distinct flavour of Embrace. Any rough edges & individuality from those bands would be mushed away & the result would be a watered-down & rather bland goo. Sorry, but I just didn't find anything to get really excited about here. So what's wrong with it? I read quite a few reviews where singer Danny McNamara got roasted for not being completely in tune, but since when has that been a problem in rock music? Singers like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Ian Brown & Sean Ryder are hardly pitch-perfect, but for me the crucial difference between those guys & McNamara is that they sound distinctive & individual - he just sounds like some bloke from the pub.

Fronted by such a characterless singer, the songs really need to be something special, but what we get are turgid major chord progressions, rather-predictable guitar riffs & largely-forgettable lyrics. You might expect the addition of some (Verve-like) orchestration to add a rich extra dimension, but the horn & string arrangements are just so woefully uninspired - I mean, I've often heard bands that make keyboards sound like real orchestration, but this is the first time I've ever heard a group make a real orchestra sound like a keyboard. When the band finally break away from their midtempo, plod-rock formula & start rocking out (on tracks like Come Back To What You Know) they start to sound much more interesting, though sadly that's also when they start sounding like Oasis too.

I suspect that this album's inclusion in the 2000 edition of the All-Time Top 1000 had little to do with its inherent musical qualities & rather more to do with the fact that the band were fashionable round the time the votes were being compiled (1998-99). And I'd be amazed if it was still there in any future editions of the book. It's not an awful album by any means, but it is a bland one. And it's just so derivative that I'm astounded they even got a record deal. Then again, they've sold bucketloads of albums over the last decade & on Amazon UK they have an average customer review of 5 stars, so what the hell do I know?


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