Florence + the Machine 'Ceremonials'
Who's saying what
The range of Florence Welch’s voice – swallowing up soul, gospel, goth, dance and more – looms large on her second album. But the range of her ideas? Not so much. Shellacking her thematic quirks with mainstream blandness and marching across the same bombastic peaks on every song, Welch tackles the follow-up to her breakthrough debut Lungs with remarkably little variation. For all her supposed intrigue, she’s more a brassy power-ballad diva than a kooky art-pop goddess.
That’s no fatal flaw, mind, but one does wish Welch had another approach. The lyrical vulnerability that surfaces in ‘All This and Heaven Too’ isn’t best served by boom and swell, and the stratospheric swirl of elegance and defiance that’s quite rousing on opener ‘Only If For A Night’ can only fall earthbound after a dozen tracks. Despite busy arrangements and the golden touch of producer Paul Epworth, there’s a blank quality to the production that contributes to a nagging sameness overall.
Still, this is imminently listenable stuff, with the sort of gripping effect that doesn’t even require our full attention. Percussive drama hammers down on ‘Shake It Out’, and other tracks employ a serious rock thump. ‘What the Water Gave Me’ (see embed below) radiates hymn-like warmth, while ‘Seven Devils’ goes for delirious strings and ‘No Light No Light’ pure theatrical swoon. ‘Lover to Lover’ and especially ‘Spectrum’ are more nightclub-tilted, embracing both the cornball heights of Welch’s over-the-top vocal swagger and the requisite dancefloor therapy (“We will never be afraid again”).
Though its opening floor toms and harmonies feel dated already, ‘Heartlines’ emerges as the best track, with darker imagery and some Björk-ish moments vocally. Its shuffling backbeat is similar to many other songs on Ceremonials, but Welch seems keen to try more things in the massive space allotted to her. She plays it looser and has fun with a robust chorus, even while letting in a bit of welcome weirdness. Though it’s enjoyable enough, this album could have used more of those qualities. So much devotion to stricken drama begins to feel stiff in no time at all.
Florence + the Machine 'What The Water Gave Me'
Join the conversation below