Florence & The Machine - Ceremonials

Florence tackles that difficult second album, and she’s holding nothing back.

Label: Island

Rating: 7

If you had to define Florence’s titular Machine, it would have to be a huge, snarling tank. Admittedly, one with big shoulder pads, sparkly sequins and a turret-mounted harp, but definitely a machine of war trampling over all before it with a crushing sense of bombast. The last couple of years have undoubtedly belonged, in one way or another, to the firebrand singer. With it becoming almost impossible to turn on a radio or watch a television programme without hearing a cut from debut album ‘Lungs’, whilst some may love to hate, there’s little point arguing. In mainstream terms at least, that has become a minority view.

It’s not exactly difficult to understand why, either. Miss Welch does offer something different to her peers - while many chose to specialise in a slice of shiny electro-pop, her sound traces a more individual lineage. There’s little doubt on ‘Ceremonials’ that you’re listening to a Florence & The Machine record, which in itself encapsulates both the best and worst of the album.

With Paul Epworth back on production, her formula for success remains largely untouched: the twinkling strings, pounding percussion and huge choirs all make an appearance on ‘Shake It Out’, furnishing it with a particularly impressive power-ballad-esque thump. Opener ‘Only If For A Night’ too possesses the kind of clout so loud it can probably be heard back in 1983. There’s no doubting that ‘Ceremonials’ is a big album.

If that grandiose grandstanding is music to your ears, you’re in luck. There are very few moments when Welch reins it in, and when she does it’s debatable how successful she is. ‘Breaking Down’ is by no means a bad song, but without the full on impact felt elsewhere, it seems somewhat of an anticlimax. When compared with the tribal beats of ‘Heartlines’, or the textbook execution of ‘No Light No Light’, it becomes a potentially fatal blow that’s failed to land.

There’s no getting away from it: ‘Ceremonials’ is Marmite. If you’re willing to give huge orchestral pop a go, you’ll struggle to do better than the thundering ‘Spectrum’. If, on the other hand, you’ve already had enough of Florence and her machine, this could very well be your own personal hell. Chances are, you made that decision a long time ago.