Florence and the Machine – Dance Fever
With a title like Dance Fever, and pop hit-making Jack Antanoff attached as producer, it could be tempting to believe this album is a move into new, uncharted territory for pop-rock group Florence and the Machine. But what listeners get is as Florence Welch as she comes – it’s a modern-gothic work of pop-rock that’s theatrical and tinged in melodrama, with a title inspired not by a hidden desire to create house anthems, but instead by a medieval scene of “dancing plague” (a rare phenomenon that would see groups of people descend into manic dance, unable to stop until they dropped) – also the subject of the aptly-named track Choreomania (“something’s coming, so out of breath/I just kept spinning and I danced myself to death”). If it wasn’t clear by now, principle songwriter Welch has a taste for the macabre.
Florence Welch doesn’t deal in half measures and, even at its most scaled-back, Dance Fever is still grandiose, propelled by her festival-ready baroque vocals where whispers can quickly become great, bellowing, soulful cries. At times, there are electric rhythms fuelled by thumping drums and rattling snares; at others it’s a slower, more intimate affair, where an acoustic folky ballad like Girls Against God (a track that deals with the anxious thoughts and fears brought on by the isolation of lockdown, when the live music industry shuddered to a halt) can stand at the forefront, backed by the promise: “If they ever let me out/I’m gonna really let it out.”
Unsurprisingly, this album is steeped in the trappings of isolation and is heavily influenced by the impact of lockdown, where musical passions and performance were forcibly laid dormant, epitomised nowhere more than in Cassandra (based upon the Greek mythological figure cursed by the male god Apollo to never be believed, despite having the power to predict the future) – a bewitching track that, like many others in her catalogue, starts off slow, before descending into a chaotic crescendo that paints a picture of her passions being subdued in a domestic scene (“I used to tell the future, but they cut out my tongue/And left me doing laundry to think on what I’d done.”)
Opener King, set to pounding drums, deals with male expectations imposed upon women, and, ultimately, female agency prevails with Florence’s protagonist subverting societal male standards. This theme is carried across Dance Fever, from joyously defiant anthem Free to the much-too-brief Restraint – a spoken-word, almost Leonard Cohen-esque performance with raspy, tortured vocals, directed in retaliation to all those who would silence her.
Dance Fever is Florence and the Machine at their very best: ambitious, mythical and fuelled by Welch’s singular vocal style. Now 15 years into their career, it’s hard to argue that they’ve lost any of the spark that saw their rise to pop-rock icons.
Dance Fever is released on 13th May 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Florence and the Machine’s website here. The album is available in Hi-Res on Qobuz and all the major streaming services.
Watch the video for the single King here: