Embrace - Fireworks (Singles 1997-2002)

When Embrace first hit the scene they were labelled as yet another gobby northern band trying to steal the thunder from Oasis. But time told the truth and what we actually got was a band who could make us cry with their sensitive ballads, made us want to fly with the likes of "You're Not Alone" and tried to strive for innovation with "Hooligan". As a parting gift for their old label Virgin (before they release the forthcoming forth album on Independiente) the band agreed to a singles collection which should with any luck make people reassess their original opinions on the band.

Starting with the anthemic stadium epic "All You Good Good People" and heading out with yet another of those early classics with "Fireworks" it showed the two sides to the Embrace sound. They were always the sort of band that would grate with their claims of being the best band in the world, but then they'd melt your heart with a line from "don't let them make you feel small with their hands". Taking tracks from all three album it was good to see the band get back on track with the single "Wonder" as the experimental sound and production on the second album never really worked and never touched base with either any true Embrace fans or really made a mark to the more leftfield indie fans.

As an extra incentive for the people who already own the single they've included their version of the Bob Dorough classic "3 Is A Magic Number". Already a live favourite and fitting snugly next to the likes of "Hooligan" and "Save Me" in terms of sound and production. With the Best Of and Singles compilations becoming an integral part of a record companies income its hard to become cynical about how much music is in the music business, but on just a few occasions a compilation like this can revive a bands career who otherwise would have been lost in the ether.

Its anyone's guess as to what is expected from Embrace in terms of the fourth album proper, but with a record label who have the likes of Travis on its roster you can bet the MD will give them the push they finally deserve. One can only hope that they don't let down the fans by taking a new radical direction after we invested so much faith in this singles compilation which only served to highlight that the brother McNamara are at their best when they've stripped it down to the most beautiful songs of the past decade.

Alex McCann

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