Released: Monday 31 October 2011
If you thought she couldn’t get any more gothic and broody then you thought wrong. Florence + the Machine return and although they don’t quite stumble as badly as others have on the sophomore album they don’t run away with the show either. Florence, the woman at the centre of it all, once again warbles high and low, taking the gothic romanticism which shaped Lungs that step further.
It seems the only way to get over the second album hurdle properly is to make it dark. ‘What the Water Gave Me’ sounds suicidal as Florence croons about pockets full of stones and heavy burdens. In truth, the songs run in a hit and miss way; for every thunderous chorus there is lacklustre meandering, for every breathy, beautiful line there is a repetitive formula peddled out.
‘Seven Devils’ is the best track and the most eerie, layered with barks of piano and whooshing electronics. “Seven devils all around me, seven devils in my house, I was dead before I woke up this morning, and I’ll be dead before the day is done” isn’t the cheeriest chorus but it’s delivered with such ghostly menace it’s hard not to love. While everyone draws the obvious comparison with Kate Bush there is also 60s soul demonstrated on ‘Lover to Lover’. ‘Heartlines’, though, shows just how off-track Florence and co can go, chanting and dragging a dull song over the five minute mark.
After building her fame on catchy summer songs, it’s probably a good idea to release this album in time for the dark winter. Fear not though, we still get some of that hands-in-the-air festival magic in ‘Spectrum’ and ‘Shake It Out’. Anyone who plumps for the deluxe version of Ceremonials will be treated to stripped-back demos of these songs which better display the melody and vocal talents of Florence. Away from the rumbling of drums and ethereal choral singing, there is the heart of a good song.
The biggest difficulty for Florence + the Machine will be doing something spectacular to shake things up on a third album. What is acceptable on a second album will see you forgotten if you try it a third time.