First published on 12 Dec 2011. Updated on 20 Dec 2011.
There are two career paths in which being a well-to-do British person are an operational advantage – dastardly Hollywood villain and eccentric art-school singer. Strangely, though, it’s been a while since Blighty has produced an unashamedly poncey pop artist, so the global breakthrough of Florence Welch (and her Machine) was good news all round.
Following the runaway success of their debut Lungs – released in 2009 and remaining one of the best-selling albums throughout the following year – Welch has been given the freedom to indulge all her wildest musical fantasies on this follow-up.
The singer’s aim was to make songs that are ‘dramatic and spooky’, and in this she has definitely succeeded. Indeed, there are times when you wish she’d dial down the spook-o-stat a few degrees. It’s not that the drama or atmosphere is excessive; it’s more that Welch relies on them a little too much.
The whole album proceeds at a single pace – which sadly is mid-tempo, the least stimulating of all paces. But the producers have tried their hardest to make each track sound different, and done a great job –whether it’s adding sub-bass to ‘No Light, No Light’, twinkly harps to ‘Never Let Me Go’ or jerky piano stabs to ‘Lover to Lover’ – but each of them follows a template of croony verse-wailing chorus and choir-assisted crescendo. That’s not necessarily the end of the world, but it means Ceremonials actually sounds less adventurous and experimental than Welch’s debut.