The Good Will Out
1998 | Geffen Records
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to see Elliott Smith perform on his Figure 8 tour. One of my clearest and dearest memories of the show was Elliott walking out onto the stage to perform an encore by himself - just him and his guitar. Before playing, in his own shy way, Smith asked the audience if they would like to hear a "happy song or a sad song, a big song or a small song, a red song or a green song?"
The audience, foaming at the mouth to hear Elliott in all of his stripped-down glory, shouted out in a resounding unison:
"PLAY A SAD SONG!"
Was it because the venue that night was full of uber-depressive types, scrambling for a fix? No. It was because certain artists are at their peak when they sing about being low.
This is the case with Embrace (pardon the rhyme) and doubly true of their debut album (and strongest record to date), The Good Will Out.
While relatively unknown – especially in North America – the quartet from Leeds should not be dismissed by anyone with a taste for great British rock, for piano-driven ballads or for, well, sad songs. The Good Will Out debuted at #1 on the charts in England and boasted a quiver of top 10 hits. This is not to say that stats like this have anything to do with the quality of an album – but simply to say that these guys have some cred.
The quality is very present, however, with beautifully and carefully written words laid over 13 far-reaching songs. Written well enough, in fact, that this album truly carries momentum with it all the way through to it's final track (the title track of the album).
The fact alone that a decision to put such a strong and thematically central song at the very end of the album hints that Embrace knew that they were working on an album of exceptional quality. They knew that the ammo was there and they were out to make every bullet count.
The sounds on The Good Will Out are lush - rich in orchestration and elaborate instrumentation. The album draws out those key elements that have come to characterize Brit-rock, but (perhaps because of how green the group was at the time) does so without crossing the line of sounding pompous.
Steered by the McNamara twins (Danny on leads and Richard on Guitar), Embrace truly achieves a sound all their own. A big part of this is Danny's melancholic baritone voice. Mixed quite strongly against the torrent of instruments the back him up, McNamara commands your attention to his words about disillusionment, insecurity and the resolve to try fighting for hope.
Songs such as the opening "All You Good Good People" and "Retread" achieve a truly inspiring spirit about them. In fact, most of the songs on the album meander their way to an anthemic climax during which the characteristic sound of a chorus of "off-the-street voices" chimes in near the end. Sort of the calling-card musical texture of the album.
But enough about all of this other stuff – let's get to the ballads. "My Weakness is None of Your Business", "Fireworks", "That's All Changed Forever" and "The Good Will Out". None of these songs should be excluded from named recognition in this recommend. Each ballad plunges down into dark and intimate depths – the place where listeners are taken captive and held at the mercy of McNamara(squared) & Co.
This is a 5-star, 10-star, whatever-amount-of-stars album that is definitely worth your attention. Don't let it get away.
British rock and roll is honored by Embrace's effort put forward in their debut album, The Good Will Out. Enjoy the roller coaster of exhilarating highs and heart-wrenching lows. Real artistry, real attitude and songs that maintain their quality from beginning to end – what more could you want on a rock record?
- All You Good Good People (track 2)
- Retread (track 3)
- Come Back to What You Know (track 5)
- My Weakness is None of Your Business (track 7)
- Fireworks (track 10)
- That's All Changed Forever (track 12)
- The Good Will Out (track 14)