Florence + The Machine’s music is well-suited for giving a shot of optimism in the midst of a crisis. She’s always had an ear for building upwards from small beginnings, transforming ‘Dog Days are Over’ from tinkling piano into a rumbling steam train, and gradually filling an aching, empty void with ‘Hunger’.
With ‘Light Of Love’ – a newly released song that didn’t quite make the final cut for 2018’s ‘High as Hope’ – she’s up to her usual tricks, but heads in a slightly more minimal direction. There’s something restrained about the song’s upward trajectory, and it deliberately never quite reaches heady, saturated heights. Instead, pummelling snares and choral call-and-response give way to a subtler, ponderous petering-out of energy.
Exploring themes that featured heavily on that last album, Welch reflects on the past barriers she held up to keep others at bay, alluding to substance abuse, destructive tendencies and hedonism as a form of escape. “And, oh, my little sister, when the drugs were wearing off I climbed into your bed and said, I think I did too much’,” she sings, revisiting the subject matter of the ‘High As Hope’ track ‘Grace’. “In some ways that was simpler, being too fucked up to see / I didn’t have to wake up to the world that was around me.”
It’s a message that inadvertently resonates; especially now, when ignoring the news and glazing over the daily figures seems far easier than confronting the bleak, devastating reality. Released to raise money for the UK’s Intensive Care Society – who support doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers as they work in hospitals’ ICU departments – ’Light Of Love’ doesn’t quite demand attention in the same way as Florence and the Machine’s most bombastic moments, but it’s a timely reminder of the necessity of facing the truth. “I want to look away,” Welch sings. “I must not look away.”
Confronting darkness head-on is tough, often thankless work. Stumbling forward with your eyes closed feels like the easier option, because it is the easier option. And yet walking “blindly into the dark” is exactly what ‘Light Of Love’ warns against. Within all of us, argues Welch, there’s a burning fire that will guide us through the the other side, where better times with friends and family await.