It doesn’t seem quite right to describe Embrace as a comeback album, the group never having formally disbanded. Embrace does, however, break an eight-year silence from the band, during which it might well have been forgotten, by many, just how huge they were circa the turn of the century. Their first five albums were all Top 10 hits in the UK, three of those No. 1s, and they were extended the debatable honor of being commissioned to record England’s 2006 World Cup song.
This sixth album, then, was never likely to be a gentle, modest, apologetic reminder of Embrace’s existence, and indeed it isn’t. It’s an album clearly conceived with every intention of being sung lustily along to in rows so far back the group would need binoculars to see them: Everything is cavernous, portentous, enormous. All its significant influences hail from the canon of somber populists: the Cure, U2, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Muse.
This does not have to be a bad thing, and every so often Embrace threatens to become beguiling, or at least interesting. “In The End” is a pretty confection of keyboard backwashes, jangling guitars and burbling bass that recalls New Order circa Technique. “Protection” is a weirdo prog epic whose silliness is just about occluded by its grandeur.
But too often, unfortunately, Embrace is just bombast, vague and flimsy sentiment borne on gusts of generic stadium rock: the plodding cod-Coldplay of “Run,” and the Mumfords-go-electric “Follow You Home.”