Florence and the Machine - Lungs

Alisha Ahmed 19/06/2009

Rating: 4/5

I think we all know that, regardless of any opinion or reason I might give you in the next lines, that in 09 you'll want to listen to Lungs by Florence & The Machine. And that's because, whether you like it or not, whether it sounds too easy or too artificial to you, everyone will have to take a listen to and acknowledge Lungs, because soon enough, this sound will be officially established and people will start to use it for future comparisons.

But before getting started on it, I think there are a few points that need to be addressed about this album, just to make things clear. Some art-related, some hype-related, all relevant to the frenzy and anticipation towards July 6th.

Let's admit, this all seriously started for Florence & The Machine the moment she became the recipient of the second Critic's Choice Award at Brits. Of course, after that her popularity was just set to swell and swell. On top of that, it has also to be taken into account that Florence's manager is nothing like the usual character in the shadows, in this case we're talking about the queen of music socialites in London (assuming the world 'groupie' is outdated) Mairead Nash.

This Combined with major label backing from Island, and getting to be support act for the acclaimed Blur reunion tour, are just simple consequences, which all endorse the position that Florence & The Machine started to hold since the award fell in her hands, and all of this, while her debut album is not even out yet. I'd say it is already quite an accomplishment commercial-wise.

As for the art side (because albums are still supposed to
have that as well), Florence Welch did not invent anything, she didn't discover hot water, but probably, during the year or so she spent at Camberwell in her 'music Collective' and all the other arty experiences, she got to learn a few aesthetic lessons about music which eventually led her to meeting (kidnapping) James Ford and convince him to Produce Lungs. This is necessary to know in order to understand that there are at least two people liable to be
guilty for what some would describe as an 'overproduced' effort. Another way to say it (I think) is that they simply dusted off quite a few peculiar instruments (seriously, how long since an album had a harp playing pretty much on every song? - Along with synths I mean...) and decided to develop Florence's vocal tones against the current mainstream trend of quiet, faint singing, its comparable to Amy Lee's direction, which she demonstrates in Girl with one Eye, with a profuse usage of church-like multi-layered voice effects throughout all the tracks.

Then of course, to be widely appreciated, the band had to go for some safe choices such as melodic chord progressions and pattern details that stem from already established (commercially successful) sounds, making Florence & The Machine a sort of hybrid, with silly lyrics and witty rhymes on one facet and dark Gothic imagery on the other. If songs like Dog days are over, Kiss with a fist, and Between two lungs call to mind Kate Nash's output, others - such as Blinding or the painfully beautiful Cosmic Love - call forth heavy, majestic scenarios closer in style to Bat For Lashes. It is in the middle of this territory that the whole atmosphere of Lungs resides, cleverly depicted on the cover picture of the album, which looks just like the real-life adaptation of
American McGee's Alice.

Aiming to please everyone, Florence manages to get pretty much everything on her album, from 60s handclaps from to imagery borrowed from the 70s (the video for Rabbit Heart resembles the cover of I'm with the Band), beats and synths from the 80s (who can possibly avoid it now? she even bluntly covered You've got the Love from that decade) and friendly chord sequences as the 90s have seen in abundance. Lungs is basically Florence's way of showing off all the lessons she learnt as the teacher's best pet, and her mentor was commercially successful music of the last few decades.

So it can be a good album. It certainly manages to please the pop-ears without being obvious in writing or in production, trying to find its own way while still cheekily ambling along the edges of already established sounds.

So what's my ultimate feeling about the debut by Florence & The Machine? Well here's a story: this morning I got to my office and they were discussing Florence's album in terms such as: 'It's fucking brilliant. I am having a party in my car every time I listen to it.' I think I'll stick to this.