It’s taken a while. ‘Lungs’, the debut album from the woman known to her bank manager as Florence Welch, and “Flossie!” to her dad – finally came out today (6 July), despite having been sitting on most music journalists’ desks since about March.
The buzz has been building for so long – NME put Florence on the cover in January – that there’s a feeling it may have exhausted itself already, leading some critics to resort to personal sideswiping.
Like Drowned In Sound, who raged that Florence had “sold her soul to Beelzebub in hopes of becoming an adult contemporary chart star”, and expressed hope that she would “spend eternity burning in a lesser circle of hell”, which seems a little harsh.
There’s no doubt that Welch’s personality can grate. Part cloud-minded flower-child, part well-connected London scenester, there’s a sense that all her floaty interview talk of inhabiting willow trees and bathing in elves’ tears (or whatever) is an act, a premeditated attempt to come across as a Kate Bush/Wicker Man-style ingénue.
Her look, too, seems designed to give the impression of a freewheeling, flame-haired, pre-Raphaelite vagabond – when in reality she’s the well-heeled product of a top-end Dulwich public school.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and none of it would matter if the music was straightforwardly excellent. But the reviews have been cautious.
NME’s own Jamie Fullerton chimed with the prevailing view, criticising the album’s “windy production” and surfeit of “bluster”. Like many reviewers, he noted that underneath the big-budget instrumentation – the harps, flugelhorns, choirs of weeping mermaids etc – there’s a perilous lack of actual tunes.
Certainly, the fact that Florence’s manager Mairead Nash tried to enlist the songwriting talents of Johnny Borrell smacks of jangling record label nerves – or at least a recognition that Florence is not quite the finished article yet, and needs the assistance of more experienced artists.
But what do you think of ‘Lungs’? Listen to a selection of tracks and let us know your thoughts.