Monday 31 October 2011

Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials

Ssh now Florence.  Get back in your mirrored box.

It's clear what the aim for this album was: taking Florence's goth-pop and blowing it up to epic, anthemic proportions.  Instead, what she's delivered is fifteen tracks of overblown, monotonous pop bombast.  Mostly, it feels forced, Florence living up to her bands name with a churning machine that, ironically enough, undermines her attempts at epic music.  In isolation, singles like Shake It Out are easily digested, yet as a whole album it's relentlessly loud monotone.  There's no diversity here, no light and shade, no time to breathe - for us or for Florence.  A few acoustic tracks and demos don't count - they're little more than an afterthought.  A far cry from the majesty of 'Lungs', 'Ceremonials' is sometimes haunting yet comes far closer to a collection of X-Factor celebration songs.

It's all peppered with electric guitar and synths, though the incessant tribal drums and endless choir choruses become tiresome. Individual instruments do shine - the church organ of No Light, No Light; the deep rumbling synths of Remain Nameless; the shimmering harp break in Spectrum.  Indeed, musically there is some great stuff here and some catchy melodies (particularly Never Let Me Go), but it's stifled by bad production.  Rarely has music sounded so overcrowded, or a vocal sounded so suffocated.  She is the drowning protagonist of What The Water Gave Me, her pockets filled not with stones but musical instruments and industry hype.  Florence need look no further than Bjork or Bat For Lashes to see how to do goth-pop with delicate subtlety.

But it's not just the production at fault here, it's Florence herself.  The album exposes the limits of her vocals, reduced to screeching banshee for the majority of tracks.  I suspect, though, this is to keep up with the overwhelming instrumentation.  Also questionable is Florence's dubious songwriting ability.  Lyrically, for all its fantastical and religious imagery, this is vacuous stuff.  What exactly are the heartlines on your head? 

Perhaps 'Lungs' was just a lucky break.  Or perhaps success has gone to her head.  Is Florence really the musical goddess the pop industry has labelled her as?


Gizzle choice tracks:
* Never Let Me Go
* No Light, No Light
* Spectrum