Friday, July 10, 2009

Florence + The Machine's "Lungs": A Full-Body Experience

"Once more with feeling": this seems to be a prominent idea in UK powerhouse Florence + The Machine's debut Lungs, and God, if you're familiar with Florence Welch's music, such a statement may surprise you-- girl already has a hell of a lot of feeling. Only a few years ago, Welch was a rare breed of rumpus-starting club singer across the pond, discovered and made into the phenom she is today by Queen of Noize Mairead Nash when hearing her sing in the bathroom. Since then, she has gained a following as rabid as her sound, thanks not only to her astounding voice, but to her insatiable, Alice-like curiosity (Welch took a break from a performance by jumping into a pool right in the middle of a SXSW performance, only to return by crawling under the stage) for which she is now notorious. This alone makes it easy to see why hype has escalated so quickly for her, while so many are only now learning who she is. With such a big world of strangers to approach, it is clear that Welch intends to make herself resonate, and a strong album seems the only option. And so the quest begins as such an innocuous, emotionally naked woman as she heads toward us all with a steady drum in her head and a rabbit in her heart.
If you were content with the rougher sounds of Florence's singles and live tracks, I wouldn't get too comfortable-- every familiar track on Lungs' has resurrected itself with more power than before. The perfect example is standout "Howl", which brings to mind Angela Carter's fixation with wolves and, as a live track, was once much more sweet and harmless. Never again, this reworking tells us, as her art has transformed her from mere girl to beast... and the claws are out. Welch gives you a reason to fear her as the album moves on, not only for her magnanimous talent, but for the pure vitriol with which her stories unravel, evident in the strange revenge tale "Girl With One Eye". On it, Welch commands her adversary to "get [her] filthy fingers out of my pie"... wait, what? you'd probably ask any less intimidating songstress, but no. Not only do you not question Welch-- you don't feel the need to. Her affinity for off-color topics is just one of the many things she does so well.
And yet, with her love for the non-sequitur, you can't help but relate to Welch. Her metaphors explain themselves quite easily-- "Dog Days Are Over" references our surprisingly common inability to accept happiness. "Kiss With a Fist" is the clever outlining of addiction to a person, no matter how much you know you're hurting yourself. Beneath all the album's savage imagery, it is undeniably human-- which is at least made clear by the desperate fervor of her words. It's a Peter Pan of sorts, an adolescent girl who refuses to accept the fact that she is becoming a woman, wanting instead to stay in the forest with her imaginary gang of fellow miscreants. The pain this album holds is all internal, fitting readily with the bodily imagery that is visible throughout the whole album, and kept deep inside until its sheer power overtakes her throws her into the tantric behavior that Welch is famous for and has perfectly captured in this album.
After the fit is over, the fire remains. Lungs puts a listener in such a frenzy that it almost seems necessary to smoke a cigarette afterwards. But at this point, Welch's mission is complete: who was once a strange woman has summed herself up perfectly to an unknowing world... though we're sure to learn much, much more about her as her, most-likely, very long career as a performer goes on. A debut like Lungs gives fans the impression that what with Welch's already passion-drenched catalog of singles and onstage fire, which have already shocked fans like Courtney Love, this girl has only begun to spill her guts.


Valentina said...

Come on girl, why you gotta make me feel so bad bout my pathetic writing skills?! This is a beautifully written review. You have made me entirely too excited to hear the album now.

Lolita Hazed said...

Aww shucks, thank you :) I can Skype it to you if you like!

Valentina said...

Ooh yes senorita, I would absolutely love that! We must make a skype date for the near future.

Couture Carrie said...

Fabulous review and blog!


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