Florence & The Machine - Lungs
“I like the dark. It's friendly” - Cat People (1942).
This ain't rock 'n' roll this is genocide. So many lithe young ladies throwing themselves to the Wolves of Pop. Caligula would have blushed. But the public have a taste for blood, their scythe is weaving and heads will roll. Lady GaGa, you don't look like the other girls, will they love you? Little Boots, you missed the Top 10, will they forgive you? Ladyhawke, your cupboard of hits is bare? VV Brown? Noisettes? OK you two were just crap. Now in strides Florence with her “Machine”. What card will the Seer turn? Love? Death? The Fool?
It's either brave or really dumb to play your best card first but OH! What a card! Dog Days Are Over is as perfect a slice of warped pop as Kiss or Wuthering Heights. It makes me wanna torch my funky chateau and take to the woods and join a hippy commune like the one in Easy Rider. Yeh, livin' off the land, doin' my own thing in my own time. It's a vampish vixen full of boiling blood. The same blood that drove Anais Nin & Henry Miller to hang up the 'Do Not Disturb' sign. It's potent enough to turn whole cities into frenzied sex zombies like in Cronenberg's Rabid. Oh yeah, I'll have what she's having. It's immortal.
Even if Lungs never scales those heights again it's a wild ride throughout. In fact there are numerous wonders and oddities as we are led through the forest and caves. Rabbit Heart's bunny quickly unzips into a Lion and cushions our (slight) descent nicely. It's a gospel tinged slice of Wicker woman weirdness with enough Dionysion mojo to coax Lord Summerisle and his Wiccan wenches to another fry up. We may be in the Company of Wolves but damn it feels thrilling to peer over the edge.
The sense of tension, urgency and well, hot love, rarely lets up. The sultry midnight banshee howl of erm, Howl could make a great single and - if you can erase the image of Nicholas Lyndhurst saying “Cosmic” from your memory - Cosmic Love is breathtaking. A phantom army of marching drummers trailing through the mist straight for your heart. FloMac calls “The Stars! The Moon!” and the whole shebang explodes into a cacophony of fireworks.
There are thankfully lighter moments. Girl With One Eye, a charming, theatrical ditty about dismemberment, will be ace live and sounds like a burning wheel rolling down the hills. Between Two Lungs is the most playful and sweetest of Lungs' children though. The chorus feels like the sun breaking through granite clouds after an eternity of darkness, it's magic I tell you! “Burn the witch”, etc! The music is exquisite throughout, all angel choirs, tribal drums and harps. Harps! Where have you been all of my life?
Flo's got a way with words too, the lyrics are the kind of Grimm Fairytales I wish I'd had as a kid. It's like Burton's Oyster Boy or Poe's Tell-Tale Heart down there. The freak's the hero in this town, “My reputation's kinda clouded with dirt...I belong to the hurricane”. This love is strange, this love hurts, ”“I love you so much I'm going to let you kill me”. In fact Florence Nightingale better be on duty, there's a LOT of blood on this record, on its feet, hands, up the walls, it's literally ground into the grooves. Oh and it's feverishly hot to handle too, you may need oven gloves to carry it, “I slip my hand under her skirt...get your filthy fingers out of my pie”. A hunk o' burnin' love.
It's not a perfect fit though. It's a demanding listen and occassionally gets a touch hazy. As remarkable as Flossie's voice is there are also minor “Woah Bodyform” moments. She's yet to really learn how to ride that feral juggernaut of a voice. It can blow your hair back and gives you a 'G-Force Face'. Lungs ends a tad clumsily too with her Candi Staton cover You Got The Love feeling a bit like a comedy donkey tail pinned to the end (also doesn't it sound spookily like the Manics' Tolerate?). There's also too many songs. Drumming can GTFO for one although it'll be the signal for a pint break at the gigs. Kiss With A Fist meanwhile still sounds like Ida Maria and is therefore about as welcome as a one-legged man in an ass kicking competition.
Despite initial reservations, and the fact that we have already have one hippy nutter running naked around the garden already (Bat For Lashes), Lungs is an adrenalin ride, a genuine Magic Roundabout. It's still first light and The Machine is only just powering up but with a name that literally means “to flower”, it'll be worth seeing this one blossom and really learn to swing that towering colossal machine of hers, that incredible soul-shaking voice. Lungs indeed. So for an opening hand, just wow. Lungs is a great, bloody, record.