REVIEW: Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Let’s all be honest here: what we’ve heard from Florence + The Machine‘s new album isn’t really the Spectrum level we expected. Then again we should have been more savvy to the title (and the press releases): How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful promises something more expansive and serene, two words that admittedly aren’t used a lot around old Flo-bags.

And rightly so, because expansive and serene this most certainly ain’t. While the singles have mildly more appeal on record – Ship To Wreck bears frantic Dog Days Are Over energy, counterbalanced by that slow-bloom bombast of What Kind Of Man they’re also indicative of the general tone we’re about to endure on this new album.

There’s drama in droves, as always. Welch isn’t exactly the retiring sort when it comes to a song, and bold titles like Various Storms & Saints prove that she’s lost none of her penchant for histrionics. The problem is that it’s ever so draining and, by the halfway point, you feel like you need a time-out from something that feels akin to a lecture from a banshee (seriously, how much more deceptive could a song called Queen of Peace be?).

That exhaustion has always been the problem here. It sounds like both Florence and her machine are having a shouting match on the title track, and everything is so overwrought that very little sticks. There is, however, remarkable poise and control on the slower numbers like Long & Lost and ode-to-lost-causes St Jude, which ultimately feel like respite in a world where hushed tones don’t really exist. They also serve to highlight how necessary a balance is – when every song is belted, nothing feels particularly special.

So does Ms Welch make us squelch? Not as much as we’d like, even though the record does work as a cohesive whole. Its isolated waters are choppy though, and Florence might need to temper herself before How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful keeps reminding us how bloody boisterous she can be.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine can be ordered here.

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