proclaiming himself king, Florence + The Machines fourth album is as majestic as it is authentic. Tiptoeing in a sense of grandiosity, the record (and Welch herself) possesses self-awareness and is beautifully honest. Dance partner of Anxiety, girl against God, defector of love: Florence weaves poetry, words and angelic song effortlessly. The beating drums are his partner in crime again and push the crescendos of Dance Fever to a euphoric level.
Ironically, most of the tracks on ‘Dance Fever’ have a choral weirdness that would suit the acoustics of a cathedral. Florence is the devil caught in the pure gaze of God because it looks like she is dictating straight from her poetic diary. A tone of shriveled nostalgia is found on ‘Back in Town’. Los Angeles thoughts link him to ‘How tall, how blue, how beautiful’. References to previous records are scattered throughout, but a familiar clapping pattern and shimmering harp at the start of ‘Choreomania’ sends a “Dog Days” shiver in the back.
The defiance of inner demons associated with the give-and-take relationship of musical creation are revealed as the main themes of the album. Welch spoke about how incredibly present and real the opportunity for relapse was during lockdown, as well as the fatigue of being away from the stage. “Take me back drunken gods,” she sings on “Cassandra” as she searches for someone to sing to. Loaded with empty pages and a full heart, Welch captures the vast emptiness of a locked world.
Jack Antonoff left his mark on ‘Dance Fever’ although not as clearly as on some of Welch’s contemporary records such as ‘Solar Power’ and ‘Blue Banisters’. “Girls Against God” has a familiar melodic lead guitar that bends to the producer’s will. Beyond that, Florence’s mystical touch injects the right amount of drama and reinforces the fragility and truth of the self. Visceral soundbites of gasps, laughter and guttural throat noises are layered and added to the harmonies and chorus of Welch’s vocals. Heard on “Daffodil,” they add depth to the already cinematic track that has the power of a battle cry and the narration of a Dickensian villain.
The shorter titles ‘Restraint’ and ‘Prayer Factory’ should not be overlooked. They act as epilogues to their previous sister tracks and give them satisfying outros, teasing you sweetly in less than a minute. ‘Dream Girl Evil’ blends ravishing instrumentation with fervent drumming. He throws the male gaze into the fire and revels in its combustion. Religious metaphors have a small hold on Florence when it comes to longing, as seen with the “Ceremonials” bonus track “Bedroom Hymns.”
In the face of love, bombs are thrown and Elvis asks for forgiveness at the end of ‘Dance Fever’. Balancing a dramatic soundtrack with heartfelt emotion, Florence + the Machine invites you into their fever dream. A dance party to unleash your demons, they cast yet another lyrically beautiful and musically capitulating spell.
Words: sophie mcdonald
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