“Ceremonials” by Florence and the Machine
Be careful what you wish for, they say, and I was so wishing for a bit of light and shade from Florence’s second album, having been impressed by the virtuoso power of her first. This is not to say that it’s a bad album, far from it. It is beautifully produced, with good tunes polished until they gleam, so I feel almost guilty in saying that it lacks the rough edges that would make it sound a bit more human.
The problem is that Florence takes a breath and turns it into a hurricane. She has a voice (oh, she has a voice) that is almost constantly set at loud. Even in the relatively quieter moments, you know that you are only a couple of beats from an aural roasting.
It is not the sort of album that you put on repeat; rather you lay there in the recovery position panting with relief after the final track. The playlist, while hugely enjoyable, is just a bit too heavy on rousing torch songs, although I can already hear the crowds of festival goers disagreeing.
OK, not all is pomp and bombast, but even the less raucous numbers have to have their pin-you-to-the-seat moment, which is a shame when she could break hearts and mirrors with a keening falsetto sweet as a kindergarten at Christmas. Even the least amplified track, “Breaking Down”, suffers from a massive overload of echo, as though someone in the control room couldn’t resist twiddling a few knobs.
Despite these reservations, this is a strong album with singles waiting to be plucked and will head the prezzie list of many teenage girls this Christmas. Florence seems to have landed among us as a fully fledged “Out There” persona in the vein of the great Kate Bush, which is refreshing in a music industry of “X Factor” wannabes, but it will be a good trick to one day produce a back catalogue as varied as Kate’s.
Goldfrapp, Pixie Lott, Lily Allen et al: they came, they sang and then faded at the third or fourth attempt. Florence has perhaps the best chance to stay and dazzle and I dearly hope that she does. But now that she has enough anthems to keep the sing-alongers happy, it would be interesting to hear her reigned in.
I loved “Lungs” and “Ceremonials” will get plenty of plays from me but, given that this girl can sing and write, I would love to hear her unplugged (in all senses). However, before she does, I beg one hypocritical favour – let’s hear her version of Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit”.
Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine, Island Records.