Album: Florence & the Machine, Lungs, (Island)
Guess what? This week's next big thing could be the real deal
Sunday 05 July 2009
Anyone who witnessed her extraordinary shimmy up the scaffolding in stilettos at Glastonbury last weekend will know that Florence Welch is not like other girls.
Inundated as we are with new female superstars every other week, this is probably a good thing: it did, at the very least, make Welch (literally) stand out from the crowd.
And what a time to pull off that show-stopping performance – a canny week before the release of Lungs, signalling the time for the hype to stop and the promise to be delivered on.
So does Lungs deliver? With bells on – if Lady Gaga is the next Madge and La Roux the new Kylie, then Welch is nothing short of a 21st-century Kate Bush, with a degree in anatomical biology from the University of Psychoville bolted on.
From the swooping opener "Dog Days are Over" to the closing cover of Candi Staton's "You've Got the Love", Welch hardly puts a four-inch heel wrong. There are stand-outs aplenty – the raw and punky energy of "Kiss with a Fist" segues neatly into the dark cabaret of "Girl with One Eye", while even the seemingly sweet melody of "My Boy Builds Coffins" is transformed into something sinister and savage by Welch and her versatile backing Machines.
And it's those lyrics that make this south London lass of Irish extraction really stand apart: barely a song passes without a line to make you smile, wince, or both. "A kick to the teeth is good for some/ A kiss with a fist is better than none" may not be the most politically correct couplet of the summer, but it's an attention-grabber, for sure. Likewise, "I slipped my hand under her skirt/ I said 'Don't worry, it's not going to hurt'" is not one to win over fans of the Jonas Brothers.
This fine line between deeply unsettling and radio-friendly is precisely the place that Florence resides. Fast-forward 15 years and, while other "now" acts are on a Remember the Noughties tour playing past hits to nostalgic ex-Hoxtonites, my guess is that Florence will still be there, making music that mixes glamour and danger in equal measure.
Climbing scaffolding in heels? Right now, it's an apt visual metaphor and Welch shows no sign of vertigo.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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