An exultant return from Florence Welch...

Proclaiming herself as king, Florence + The Machine’s fourth album is as majestic as it is authentic. Tip-toeing along the lines of grandiosity, the record (and Welch herself) possesses self awareness and is beautifully honest. Anxiety’s dance partner, a girl against god, a defector from love: Florence weaves together poetry, spoken word and angelic vocals effortlessly. Pounding drums are once again her partner in crime and push Dance Fever’s crescendos to a euphoric level.

Ironically, most of the tracks on ‘Dance Fever’ have a choral eeriness to them that would suit the acoustics of a cathedral. Florence is the devil caught in God’s pure gaze as it feels like she dictates straight from her poetical diary. A tone of wizened nostalgia is found on ‘Back in Town’. Thoughts of LA tie it to ‘How Big How Blue How Beautiful’. References to previous records are sprinkled throughout but a familiar clapping pattern and twinkling harp at the beginning of ‘Choreomania’ sends a ‘Dog Days’ shiver down your spine.

Defiance in the face of inner demons paired with the give and take relationship of music making reveal themselves as the main themes of the album. Welch has spoken about how the opportunity for relapse was incredibly present and real during lockdown as well as how wearying being away from the stage was. "Take me back drunken gods", she sings on ‘Cassandra’ as she searches for someone to sing to. Burdened with empty pages and a full heart, Welch captures the vast emptiness of a locked down world.

Jack Antonoff has left his fingerprint on ‘Dance Fever’ although not as clearly as on some of Welch’s contemporaries’ records such as ‘Solar Power’ and ‘Blue Banisters’. ‘Girls Against God’ has a familiar melodic lead guitar that bends to the producer’s will. Beyond that, Florence’s mystical touch injects the right amount of drama and empowers fragility and self-truth. Visceral soundbites of gasping, laughter and guttural throat noises are layered throughout and add to the harmonies and choir of Welch’s voice. Heard on ‘Daffodil’, they add depth to the already cinematic track that has the power of a war cry and the storytelling of a Dickensian villain.

The shorter tracks ‘Restraint’ and ‘Prayer Factory’ are not to be glossed over. They act as epilogues to their previous sister tracks and give them satisfying outros, tenderly teasing you in less than a minute. ‘Dream Girl Evil’ melds rapturous instrumentation with fervent drums. It throws the male gaze into the fire and delights in its burning. Religious metaphors have a small hold over Florence when it comes to desire as seen with ‘Ceremonials’ bonus track ‘Bedroom Hymns’.

In the face of love, bombs are thrown and Elvis asked for forgiveness at the end of ‘Dance Fever’. Balancing a dramatic soundtrack with heartfelt emotion, Florence + the Machine invite you into their fever dream. A dance party to release your demons to, they cast yet another lyrically beautiful and musically capitulating spell.

9/10

Words: Sophia McDonald

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