With the porcelain complexion of an Art Deco rarity, Florence Welch is a huge global pop star on the back of her charmed debut ‘Lungs’ in 2009, an album sent supernova by the trans-Atlantic success of soaring anthem ‘Dog Days’.
Now 25, Florence has come back to earth after the intergalactic whirlwind of the past two years. Her style of futuristic chamber pop and love of haute couture is a signature look and on ‘Ceremonials’ a tighter sound her signature dish.
While ‘Lungs’ was scattered like seeds, ‘Ceremonials’ stands from the pulpit, singing into the stars like a laser beam, holding the reins of pastoral England galloping into a head-on collision with Ziggy Stardust.
From the opening of ‘Only If For a Night’ Florence rolls out her mastery of classic pop, with lashings of ginger hair, a healthy dollop of epic pop, and a voice to traverse the scales.
‘Shake It Out’ is her most American moment yet – a bombastic sermon that tips its hat to Alanis Morrisette – full to the brim with yearning and Florence’s self confessed “incorrigible maximalism”.
‘What The Water Gave Me’ draws back the lens to reveal a slow burning epiphany. It’s the perfect single to represent the album, full of Victorian antiquity and an otherworldly spirit that dances like a Celtic jig.
‘Never Let Me Go’ is a rush of misty 80s pop filtered through gold glitter glasses, while ‘Breaking Down’ is a great slice of jaunty pop, reminiscent of early Roxy Music and Marianne Faithful.
From here Florence + the Machine move into soul territory with ‘Lover to Lover’ a baroque tribute to ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine.’ The shrill of Siouxie and the Banshees echoes through the intro to ‘No Light, No Light’ before harps and strings weave a mystic spell.
Sent from the velvet lined pits of Dante’s inferno, ‘Seven Devils’ is pop opera for the ‘True Blood’ and ‘Twilight’ generation. Drums banging like an ironsmith on his anvil, a furnace of ghosts and ghouls.
‘Heartlines’ however, should be retitled ‘Flatlines’, sinking into a meandering stream of mediocrity. The ‘Dog Days’ of this album is the plink-plonk fun of ‘Spectrum’. A tune with great dance floor swagger and enough jet propulsion to let the chorus soar.
The hand claps and well clipped beats make ‘Strangeness &Charm’ dance like serpent, it’s a restless pop song, and also a welcome left turn from all the epic songs. ‘All This and Heaven Too’ is a song with too much familiarity, a caricature of her own sound and sentiment.
‘Ceremonials’ closes with the heavy yoke of ‘Leave My Body’ and the exorcism is complete; religious fervour reached through a heady emulsion of spiritual pop.
Florence has successfully whipped up a maelstrom in a teacup, the only question being - is this delicious concoction too rich for one sitting?
If sure if I was a 16 year kid who’d grown up with Harry Potter, I’d be saying “never enough”.
Damn fine album nonetheless, from wherever you sit.
For Fans Of: Mumford & Sons, Feist, Kate Bush
‘Ceremonials’ is out Oct 31st