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Florence + the Machine - Dance Fever (Album Review)

Tuesday, 17 May 2022 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Autumn de Wilde

When you witness Florence Welch pirouetting around the stage like a woman possessed, it’s immediately apparent such expressive dramatics are being driven by a deeper, more profound force. The singer’s performances have always been fuelled by a roiling internal narrative, something she explores in savage detail throughout this unflinching and revealing song cycle.

It’s been four years since Florence + the Machine released ‘High As Hope.’  Unveiling a lyrical sharpness and confessional veracity that was missing from the band’s early efforts, it was the first time Welch had made a record completely sober.  Continuing that brutally honest approach, ‘Dance Fever’ finds her tackling the latent anxieties and issues that triggered her destructive behaviour patterns and addictions.

Documenting a surprisingly tempestuous love-hate relationship with music, the record also takes in her battle with writer’s block and the oft-touted link between misery and inspiration.

Lines such as “every song I wrote became an escape rope, tied around my neck to pull me up to heaven” and “the thing you’re very best at is the thing that hurts the most” disclose how the mythology she created for herself, which eventually took its toll and led to her almost walking away from it all, became a punishing, never-ending dance.

Whether sweeping tonal shifts, or unvarnished poetic lyrics that expose discordant feelings with razor-edged clarity, every element of this record has been utilised to capture the notion of being a complex, multi-faceted person full of contradictions. 

Stylistically varied in a way that fittingly accentuates the singer’s spiralling emotions, ‘Dance Fever’ veers between primitive hymnal folk (Heaven Is Here), industrial intensity (Daffodil), jazz (The Bomb), pop-rock (My Love), electronica (Girls Against God) and baroque pop (Dream Girl Evil) while being glued together by arty interludes and spoken word numbers. 

Far from being a downbeat slog, the flip side of that tortured coin is the pleasure and freedom movement and music offer Welch. Encapsulated within some of the record’s deceptively upbeat numbers, high-spirited beats, peppy percussion and frisky grooves collide with radio-friendly hooks to soundtrack that sense of temporary release.

Producers such as Jack Antonoff, Dave Bayley and Kid Harpoon have done a stellar job creating a sound for this record that, although well textured, never overshadows the storytelling. Positioning Welch’s captivating voice front and centre, while imbuing it with a haunting quality that sounds like she’s trapped in some kind of metallic prison, a swirling storm of multi-layered harmonies and backing vocals give voice to the singer’s labyrinthine musings.

The only negative is that Antonoff’s fingerprints are occasionally too apparent.  Back In Town sounds exactly like his recent work with Lana Del Rey, while Welch’s phrasing and cadence sometimes mimics the Video Games singer a tad too closely, essentially taking us behind the creative curtain and letting us see the strings being pulled. It breaks the otherwise consistent artistic spell.

Although it’s not the feelgood album of the summer, ‘Dance Fever’ is a powerful body of work that becomes more rewarding with every listen. Revealing fresh flavours and insights throughout songs that question whether the personal cost of creativity is too much to bear, it’s a wonderfully layered record on every front that, much like its chief songwriter, exudes a complexity that will fascinate, intrigue and captivate for a long time to come. 

Florence + the Machine Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed November 16 2022 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Fri November 18 2022 - LONDON O2 Arena
Sat November 19 2022 - LONDON O2 Arena
Mon November 21 2022 - BOURNEMOUTH Bournemouth Int'nl Centre
Tue November 22 2022 - MANCHESTER AO Arena
Thu November 24 2022 - BIRMINGHAM Utilita Arena
Fri November 25 2022 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Sun November 27 2022 - GLASGOW OVO Hydro
Mon November 28 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Motorpoint Arena
Wed November 30 2022 - DUBLIN 3Arena

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