Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Florence and the Machine - Lungs Review

I don't know what it is that is stopping me from being crazy about this release-- many of the sweeping orchestra arrangements recall Patrick Wolf, but there's something missing. Florence Welch's voice is similar to Meredith DiMenna's (Saint Bernadette)-- sultry and flexible and capable of a lot-- but lacks the strength of Saint Bernadette.

This might be a result of the music itself. The album seems confused. Sometimes the epic musical grounding works-- particularly on "Dog Days Are Over"-- but at other times, like on "Hurricane Drunk," it just sounds like Joss Stone getting overexcited.

There is a strange contrived feeling, as though somebody pointed out that the album needed to be BIGGER and that's what they went for. While this works on the very Patrick Wolf-esque "Cosmic Love," which is saved from being a disposable by its use of a plethora of strings and backing vocals as well as well-placed drums, on most of the tracks, this unfortunately makes the lyrics-- and thus the vocalist-- seem disconnected. The music doesn't bother to become delicate in order to highlight certain lines or Welch's delivery. Welch mentions that she likes choir music, and while this is done well in the recording, there is a strange lack of natural melding between the lyrics, the voice, and the action of the song unless it is in that the music tends to absorb or even drown Welch's voice.

I think the problem is that the first version of "My Boy Builds Coffins" that I heard was an acoustic track that I heard on Youtube (skip the intro- it's tedious and will make you not really want to get to know Florence, who comes off as that boring girl who is spacey for the sake of being 'interesting" because she can't figure out what else to do.) This version showcases the words as well as Welch's voice and results in a product much more emotional and interesting than all the crazy film score like music that makes the final version almost maudlin. Even the demo version, which is a more jazz-oriented track that recalls Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good" is more effective and affecting than the record cut, which I'd go so far as to say that they ruined it.

Perhaps that is it. Listening to the record, it seems like you should either be hearing a big lush album that could double as an avant-garde soundtrack or a sparse if not acoustic album. The problem comes with the feeling that the latter would have resulted in a better, more interesting product. Instead, they chose big and made an album that wavers between boring and messy except for a few standout tracks. Actually, the NME guy puts it well: "as it is, it may be breathtaking in places, but Flossie’s ‘Lungs’ are just a bit too full of bluster."

1 comment:

McCrank said...

I completely agree. I used to have the Florence and the machine demos, the rawer songs up on my blog. They rocked 10 times better than the over-produced and overly lush LUNGS. She was fine with the earlier dog days and kiss with a fist vibe. somebody stole her and pointed her in the wrong direction. Hopefully, she'llget back to her roots. I hear the single isn't selling well. YOu can find one of her earlier EPs on Strangeways Here We Come Blog.


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