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B-list Kate Bush doesn’t quite live up to the hype.
Olaf Tyaransen, 24 Jun 2009
Much-hyped London five-piece Florence And The Machine are one of Island Records’ great white hopes for 2009. So much so that one wag has already dubbed them Florence And The Publicity Machine (alright, it was me!). Although Lungs is their debut, the band fronted by flame-haired singer-songwriter Florence Welch have already won a Brit ‘Critics Choice’ gong, appeared on the NME Awards Tour, and played most of the major UK music festivals, including Glastonbury and Reading. Celebrity fans include Radio 1’s Edith Bowman, The Culture Show presenter Lauren Laverne and Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman.
Thankfully, there’s a bit more to FATM than media hype and industry networking. Maybe too much more. Produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons), Paul Epworth (Kate Nash, Bloc Party) and Steve Mackey (Pulp, M.I.A), and recorded in a disused synagogue, Lungs features a confusingly diverse mix of soul, jazz, blues, gospel, disco, rock and indie pop, with a folky twinge running intermittently throughout (generally whenever the harp starts twinkling). Such musical diversity is hardly surprising given the input of three heavyweight producers, but Welch’s quirkily passionate vocals – which range from distinctively impressive (the bonus cover of Candi Staton’s ‘You’ve Got The Love’) to distinctly irritating (album opener ‘Dog Days Are Over’) – mostly hold it all together.
Hard-hitting (literally) debut single ‘Kiss With A Fist’ led some critics to compare Welch to PJ Harvey or Patti Smith: “You hit me once/I hit you back/You gave a kick/I gave a slap/ You smashed a plate/Over my head/Then I set fire to our bed.” Actually, she’s not really as hardcore as all that (more like a B-list Kate Bush), but Lungs isn’t without its genuinely dark moments; ‘Girl With One Eye’ is a moody Stray Cats-style song of revenge, while ‘My Boy Builds Coffins’ speaks for itself. Fortunately, there are some strong upbeat pop songs here as well (‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’, ‘Hurricane Drunk’) and some banging beats (especially on, er, ‘Drumming’).