Getting through this review without mentioning the hype and attention surrounding Florence Welch and her Machines is pretty much impossible (that’s what happens when you review albums that’ve been out for a while, but nevermind, eh?), and not letting that hype overshadow the actual music is even more of a challenge. Perhaps that’s the biggest problem with Lungs; because it’s proven so popular and Welch herself has become another postergirl for this new-wave of female singers, the music seems to have been glossed over somewhat. Bit of a shame, that, because Lungs isnt quite as good as you’d hope.
On the one hand, it’s nice to see an artist/band receiving such attention and praise when they’re a million miles away from dance routines and electro-pop. A quick look at the album cover, with Welch looking like a hippie folkster is all you really need to see that this is not your average artist/band. They certainly don’t sound like one either. Welch’s soaring soulful voice is combined with music that could best be described as folk influenced indie. If that sounds a little vague, it’s probably because Lungs itself is a little vague. The band don’t really nail down a distinct sound throughout the 13 tracks on offer here, just a few different ones. There’s some slow soul numbers (Girl With One Eye, Comsic Love), some up tempo guitar-driven songs that verge on rock (Blinding, Kiss With A Fist) and then the singles (Rabbit Heart, Dog Days Are Over) with their ramshackle instrumentation and soaring choruses. A quick look at the songtitles puts across a sense of fun and dark humour which keep the album from being too pleasant and safe, but Lungs is simply too inconsistent.
Welch herself has a great voice, let’s not deny that. But the songs seem to rely on her too much and there are too many points where she has to wail loudly just to make a song move away from obscurity. Regardless of the band’s inability to nail down a specific sound, too many songs get stuck in sparse territory with light, dull instrumentation, which is particularly evident in the second half of the album. Lungs does rely on the singles as the real vocal points, and it shows, because save for the pounding rhythm of Drumming along with Howl, there isnt a whole lot left of it to recommend.
Hype is a strange thing in music. When it surrounds a somewhat innocuous-looking group, it tends to spin things out of proportion. Strip away the hype from Lungs and you’ve got a promising album from a developing artist, but it’s a long way from being anything beyond that. Florence and the Machine have garnered enough interest to last a career that’s certainly going to be interesting if this debut is anything to go by, so let’s hope their next offering builds on the promise shown here.