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Flame-haired pop priestess serves up glossy reprise of chart-gobbling debut.
Ed Power, 07 Nov 2011
The first pop star to look genuinely, no-bullshit fantastic in a flouncy skirt and daisy-chain tiara since Kate Bush went the full recluse, Florence Welch doesn’t quite fit the stereotype of the tragic rock casualty. So it’s been surprising to hear her banging on about her destructive drinking and the dark side of the music lifestyle in the run-up to her second album. A reckless booze-hound whose preferred onstage state of mind was blathered incoherence – honestly, Florence, we didn’t think you had it in you.
While not explicitly comparing herself to Amy Winehouse she has told journalists that, as her career went stratospheric, the only thing that kept her sane – and then only by her finger-tips – was her relationship with the bottle. “I used to think it was all part of the performance to go out there, go on tour, and get as drunk as possible,” she explained recently. “Like, oblivion. Oblivion. Living almost out of control.”
Whether this is a howl for help from the depths of her soul or a canny stab at deflecting the spotlight from the new record is unclear. Very possibly it is both, a venting of demons that has the useful side effect of giving critics something else to ponder other than her progression as an songwriter.
What can be stated with certainty is that if Welch’s struggle with debauchery produced any artistic after-burn it‘s been thoroughly exorcised from Ceremonials. Listening to it, you would never guess it the work of an artist who, by her own telling, has been through the wringer – much as you wouldn’t have really thought that Lungs, her two-million-selling debut, was a heartfelt break-up album.
Recorded between marathon jaunts across the US – in the course of which she finally knocked the boozing on the head – the new LP is essentially her debut writ large and transposed to widescreen. If you swooned over Lungs’ epic contours and applauded its determined absence of subtlety, Ceremonials will have you tingling with delight. For those who felt Florence has too often lurched towards human air-raid siren, there is little here to win you around. In fact, you will probably come away with your prejudices even more deeply ingrained.