Doing Its Best Phoenix Impression
(Above photo - Embrace [L-R]: Danny McNamara, Mike Heaton, Steve Firth, Richard McNamara, Mickey Dale)
It’s there in the album title—Out Of Nothing. It’s there in the chorus of gospel-anthemic opening track “Ashes”: “Watch me rise up and leave / All the ashes you made out of me.” And it’s there in the soaring vocals of Danny McNamara and swirling church-steeple guitarwork of his brother Richard. And it’s the truth: after a masterful ’98 debut, The Good Will Out, their once stadium-strong band, Embrace, issued two forgettable overseas follow-ups; was dropped by its U.K. imprint Hut after becoming NME’s whipping boy; and was reduced to playing tiny half-filled clubs—even getting straight jobs—to put food on the table for three tailspinning years. The consensus: stick a fork in ’em, these also-rans were done.
“So we’re back from the grave, really,” Danny is pleased to report from the first leg of Embrace’s stateside assault in support of Out Of Nothing, the band’s elegiac return. Produced by Youth of the band Killing Joke, the album dumbfounded the McNamaras—and their critics—by crossing the double-platinum mark in their cynical homeland.
Don’t get him wrong, adds the formerly boastful (now humble) McNamara. There was a moment not too long ago when he seriously thought about chucking it all. Afflicted since childhood with tachycardia (an irregular heartbeat that requires a prescription of beta blockers), the singer lost faith in himself in the middle of the Nothing sessions. Arguing with Youth over the set’s sound forced him to take more pills, which made recording almost unbearable, he says. “I went to Richard’s room in our London hotel, woke him up and said ‘I can’t do this anymore—it’s mental torture.’ … But he said ‘Look—this album won’t come out until you’re 100 percent happy with it. Just have faith in it.’” Now, McNamara cheerily cedes, “it was a case of leaving my ego and pride at the door and actually realizing that Youth was a genius.”