It is impossible to not pay attention to a Florence and the Machine album. Easy-going Lillith Fair music this is not. This is unreservedly rock and roll. And on their latest album Ceremonials, they shake the walls and beat drums with wild abandon. And Florence? She roars.
Most Americans’ introduction to Florence Welch came at last February’s Grammy Awards ceremony. Opening the show as part of a tribute to Aretha Franklin alongside Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, gospel singer Yolanda Adams and country superstar Martina McBride, Welch not only held her own amongst those established singers, her performance left people hungry for more. She was impossible to miss, with her flaming red hair and cream chiffon dress, an entirely different presence amidst what one critic called a Diva jamboree.
I’ve got my theories why Florence has been embraced by American fans (both her debut release Lungs and Ceremonials have been big sellers here in the states). Florence and the Machine make big music. Florence is no shrinking violet. She’s mysterious. She’s exotic. She’s demanding. She’s absolutely beautiful. She is, in a word, a siren. That’s a pretty irresistible recipe for guys. The thing is, the ladies love Florence for the same reasons. In this regard, she is not without precedent: Stevie Nicks and Pat Benetar also stood apart from their peers and made rock and roll acceptable for strong women performers and the guys that love them. I would also be called on the carpet for not acknowledging the influence of Kate Bush and Siouxie Sioux on Florence’s musical path.
Ceremonials is a more expansive album than Lungs. It is stylistically diverse. “Shake It Out” is a sonic exorcism, a call-to-action to move forward. “No Light No Light” is carried along a cacophony of drums and percussion providing space for Florence’s other-worldy vocals. There are moments where Florence’s vocals, and those of her backing choir are abashedly gospel oriented, providing a surreal sensual tension to the songs. As a buddy admitted to me, were he in the business of seduction these days, “’Only If For A Night‘ would be the closer. That’s a song you make big mistakes to.” I can’t think of a bigger compliment for the allure of Ceremonials. It’s also a perfect reminder why you should have this album on hand when in the company of the fairer sex. You’ll get points for digging an enigmatic, empowered woman. And for getting it, you might just, well…you know. You win all around.
Tim Johnstone is a former Virgin Records Label Rep and current award winning Music Director, Assistant Program Director, and on-air host at FMQB’s AAA station of the year markets 50+. He also writes a blog that’s a collection of the absolute best the internet has to offer. It’s a must read. And you can check it out here.