“Lungs” – ‘Florence + The Machine’ [Joint Review]
Well, it’s ‘recovery-day’ over here at Highly Evolved, and I’ve got to admit that my partner’s eighteenth was a smash. People falling over each other here and there, cruisers to the left of me, jokers to the right, and: here I am, stuck in the middle with you. The twelve-o’clock walk home in the dark was quite fun, the least to say, dangerous – but the antics of an eighteenth aren’t new to nobody, so we’ll get straight to business…
… I must admit that the amp. set up last night was awesome, and ‘Florence + The Machine’ managed to creep on for perhaps a track or two in the wee-hours of the night before the thrash-heads brought out of the woodwork the likes of ‘Rage Against The Machine’ and the hair went flying; but overall I think Michael Hodder has literally been dieing to review ‘Florence…’ and her gang for the past week since he found them. And I’ve just about been as enthusiastic, because this week for the Joint Review pick, we’ve got another example of those fine, female boomers who are making it out onto the stage without the sex-appeal of mainstream backing them.
Take that, scantily-clad women: shazaam!
Where do I begin?
My head is swimming in music, I’ve got so many tracks exploding in my ears that it’s difficult to pick out singular-songs. ‘Florence…’ has this uncanny ability to either grow on you or fade away without a second-thought. And my return to the album today is striking up some sparks that I found when I first listened to it the full-way through. First-timers to ‘Florence…’ will find a sort of ‘La Roux’ quality about the lead-singer, ‘Florence Welch’, but connections between are thready at best. They’re both unique, and ‘Florence…’ has a few more years experience under the belt than our red-head-friend, who should aim to be ‘Welch‘ in the not-too-distant future. You can tell these experience-gained qualities in the versatility of ‘Welch’s’ voice when it reaches those fantastic highs, and those contrasting, bluesy lows.
I know Michael Hodder and I were having a great-debate last week about what to class “Lungs” under, what genre suited best, whether or not she was a pop girl, or whether she was an indie-wanna-be, an alternative on the cusp of pop, or just simply something else. We had our own distinctive opinions, and it was interesting to see how we differed when it came to a final decision. And that never really came at all, to be honest. It was a clash between pop and indie-alternative, and I took the mongrel-genre indie on my side with the unparalleled strength of alternative to tackle the woes of pop. I had a huge discussion, I think back in the ‘La Roux’ review, when I explained to my readers how pop is one of the rare genres that evolves with the passing of each decade and the progression of music, technology-wise. Because of ‘Florence…’ and it’s acoustic-quality within “Lungs”, I was reluctant to label it pop, although some of you might disagree, I just can’t find those elements:
The lyrics are far too good, the music is far too sophisticated, and not all of “Lungs” has this optimistic quality about it, there’s urgency in ‘Welch’s’ voice in parts, ecstatic bliss in others, and maybe even a hint of melancholy. To shove it into pop is a little unfair, and, I’ll quote, their music is:
“… generally referred to as soul inspired indie rock.”
Now that just about sums up genre there, it’s on the dot. You’re asking, I suppose; ‘what the hell constitutes “soul inspired indie rock”eh?‘ Well, for a start you can listen to the album and deduce for yourselves, or leave that piece of highly-developed fat sitting in it’s oozing cage above your neck alone, and let my piece of highly-developed fat sitting in its oozing cage above my neck figure it out for you. If you’re at all confused by that sentence, read on:
Let’s break it down, shall we – soul-inspired basically means that ‘Welch’ has got an emphatic-emotionalised-voice with music in the background, if she wants it to be sad, it sounds sad, if she wants it to be happy, she makes it sound happy. Soul was all about putting yourself into your music, the way I see it. I won’t give you any soul-examples, however. Indie is pretty hard to explain, it’s probably the hardest part, so you’ll need to look into Michael Hodder’s review on that subject, which is awesome; that’ll clear it all up for you. And rock? Well, you know what that is. Put it all together and you get ‘Florence’s…’ “Lungs”.
From the top, “Lungs” is a journey of an album, and each track is surprisingly self-contained. It’s not something that I come across all too often, and others might beg to differ; but the flow of the album is quite disjointed. Don’t hold that as a negative connotation, however, because it’s this difference that I’ve clung to that makes me love it so much more. “Dog Days Are Over” opens for “Lungs” and I believe it could be a ukulele that starts it off. Some elec. claps which could be acou. back as the beat, and ‘Welch’ comes in with her soul-inspired voice. When she sings:
“… The dog days are over…”
You’re in ‘Florence…’ town. I won’t stick around here too much, because the real proof of the pudding is in the second track, my personal favourite, and I think the best that “Lungs” has to offer on the whole. “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” opens with a variety of synth with ‘Welch’ in tandem. This is what probably drew my partner to the genre pop, and it’s what drew me to the comparison of ‘La Roux’. When ‘Welch’ powers through the chorus, she takes you with her, arm in arm, and I just can’t get enough. It’s infectious, it’s one of those songs you’ll sing in the shower, on the way to work, on the sidewalk, in the car, and it has the making of mainstream.
“… We raise it up… this is a gift, it comes at a price…”
“Raise it up! Raise it up!”
“Howl” is another one of those tracks that examples ‘Welch’ power through a chorus. It was there in “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” and it comes back in this fourth-track. When it gets to the end, we drop all that power, and ‘Welch’ sacrifices it for this fantastic urgent-crescendo. I was told to look at the third-last track, so I shall…
“Hurricane Drunk” opens with some waving-air, ‘Welch‘ and perhaps a harp, I’m not completely sure. It’s that classic switch between soft and loud that makes ‘Florence…’ unique. Where other artists might explode through an entire song, or sing it soft from beginning to end, “Lungs” shifts in both tracks, and inside tracks themselves, to achieve this nice juxtaposition. I’ll have to admit, “Hurricane Drunk” isn’t a particular favourite of mine, but it’s a good example nonetheless.
I think when it comes down to a rating I’m still drunk on “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)“ and I’m still a little dazed by ‘Welch’ herself. Look, it’s got some great layers happening, and it’s got some great music happening, it’s a refreshing sound too, and it’s utilising almost the entire musical-spectrum in context with musical-apparatus. It’s probably a must for diehards, and it might be worth going back to where it all began. I’m going to be greedy and give it a four-outta-five, because it doesn’t deserve halves or anything below a three. I’m constantly hunting for these fantastic songs and these fantastic albums, and we’ve found one. You’d be crazy not to listen…
“… Raise it up! Raise it up!”
The Enantiomorphic God