There are few figures in recent British Indie and Pop music as instantly recognisable as Florence Welch, whether that’s visually, lyrically or vocally. There’s truly no one that has captured the pre-raphaelite meets festival flower crown girl meets chaotic barefooted woman on a night out look quite like Flo does and I defy anyone to hear just a snippet of one of her vocals from ‘Dog Days’ or ‘Shake It Out’ and not instantly recognise her. This can be taken one of two ways, either you’ve never been interested and clamour for something slightly different, or like me, you appreciate the honesty of Florence just doing what she’s always done. Dance Fever isn’t a revelation, but it might be the purest distillation of what it is to be Florence Welch.
From the off the dramatic stakes are high. ‘King’ is a throbbing, steady build that sees her dive into the contradiction of being one of the world’s greatest performers, but also being drawn to what is expected of her as a woman. ‘I’m no mother, I’m no wife, I am King’. It’ a theme that makes its way through so many of the songs here, closer ‘Morning Elvis’ taking the references to the King as literally as they can be.
Self destructive tales have been part of Florence’s work for years but this is the second album in a row where her own struggles with staying sober have been plain and simple to the listener. ‘If I make it to the stage, I’ll show you what it means to be spared’. The inner conflict of needing to perform live to hold it all together and yet that same thing suffering the more she depends on it is an idea that really hits hard, especially for anyone lucky enough to witness her electric live show. As fans we rarely think of the safe space created in these moments as not just one for us, but one for the artist themselves and the way Florence shows this across songs like ‘Back In Town’ and ‘Free’ makes this feel like a truly special album.
It’s a great time to mention ‘Free’ because obvious link to the name aside, Dance Fever really feeds from the dance world like no other album in her discography. Free’s new-wave style driving guitar rhythm is an absolute thrill, like a heart racing with energy before exploding into the electrifying hook. Dance as a means of escape, as a means of expression and as simply the only way to live sounds ridiculous but you can hear Florence bounding around the recording room on ‘Free’ and ‘Dream Girl Evil’, sure to become standouts in the live show.
‘My Love’ is the closest thing to a dance record F+TM have had since ‘Spectrum’ and has been lodged in my head for months. Even the less obvious ‘danceable’ moments like the hand claps of ‘Heaven is Here’, the fuzzy rock of ‘Daffodil’ and the simple starkness of ‘Girls Against God’ are designed for a more expressive performance full of movement. Notice that every video released from the album uses dance in the most intense and engaging way possible.
There’s lots of talk of the impact of Jack Antonoff has had on the writing and production of the record, but I’d say Dave Bayley of Glass Animals has arguably fed into more of the rhythmic quality to the record.
In the end though it’s Florence Welch and her usual collaborators Isabella Summers, Robert Ackroyd and so many others that have honed the Florence + The Machine sound so perfectly that this album is the result. In some ways the starkest and most brutally open record of their career, in others this is yet another Florence record that sounds very similar to the last few Florence records, the small changes not breaking the enigmatic figure and style enough to be a complete overhaul. This continues to be music born out of the stage and for the stage and I for one cannot wait to witness it being performed for years to come.
Words by Sam Atkins