Virgin – 2001 – 48 minutes

Like Michael Myers, Freddie Kruger and Jason Vorhees, Embrace just won't go away and leave the public in peace. Their latest album, 'If You've Never Been', marks their return to center stage after a prolonged absence. While they've been languishing in mid-chart mediocrity, they've seen a number of bands come in and steal their thunder, while the Britpop scene that spawned them has now been chalked up as a passing phase. So do Embrace have anything left to give to the good, good people, that put them on their pedestal?

Surprisingly they do. Embrace seem to be a band at peace with themselves, perhaps freed from a need to genuflect at the altar of the Gallagher brothers. From the very first track, 'Over', the band display a musical ingenuity that had hitherto only been hinted at. Throughout this album they show the tenderness that they are renowned for, without their previous tendency towards over-production.

A track like 'It's Gonna Take Time' shows that Embrace have finally found a pair of shoes that fit. Danny McNamara's haunting vocals are perfectly complimented by tight arrangements from their production team. They manage to strike the balance between sweeping ballads and pure pop well and, with one or two exceptions, particularly 'If You've Never Been In Love With Anything', never fall into the trap of thinking that the public are impressed with musical showboating.

Embrace know who they are and so do the public. This is not the greatest rock album of the year but for Embrace fans and those on Oasis cold turkey, it might just be the hit required.

John Raftery

Tracklisting: Over – I Hope You're Happy Now – Wonder – Many Will Learn – It's Gonna Take Time – Hey, What You Trying To Say – If You've Never Been In Love With Anything – Make It Last - Happiness Will Get You In The End – Satellites