Florence + the Machine, “No Light, No Light”
The gloriously redheaded, new romantic Joan of Arc has valiantly picked up her sword and charged once again into the pop music church hall, swinging dramatically until she falls under the weight of her own pain. Well…that’s probably how Florence Welch sees it anyway.
Yes, the melodramatic queen of melodies returned in 2011 with Ceremonials, the follow up to the highly successful Between Two Lungs (released in 2009). She hasn’t changed much admittedly, still serving us with soaring vocals, a plethora of instruments (harps, church organs etc…) and songs that you imagine being played in the final scene of a period drama slasher film. Same old, same old.
To say she has a knack for writing powerful melodies is like saying she may dye her hair occasionally. No Light, No Light thunders with church organs, backing singers (a chorus of them…) and her irrepressible vocals. Oh, and there’s a harp.
The one thing that is noticeably different is she has reigned in that freight train of a voice of hers. Between Two Lungs was aptly named, descending into a karaoke session, Florence singing wildly above thumping drums, drowning out any hint of a band. She hit the same note repeatedly, soared in and around the pitch, and belted her vocal chords to the level that I’m now not sure whether she has only two lungs. Thankfully, someone tapped her on the shoulder.
It starts simply enough. Thudding drums and the sustained, high synth. The drums fade out and the synth is left to support her vocals- which are soft and warm. Then we hear the first chorus, which swells with cymbals galore and harps and heaving guitars. It’s pure melodrama, and when Florence sings- “No light, no light in your bright blue eyes”– we can imagine the high ceilings and stained glass of the Gothic church hall that she clearly has pictured in her mind.
The songs powers along predictably, there are no surprises from Florence here. Dark imagery, death, thumping drums, harps, sublime harmonies floating above climactic organ- it’s all been done before. This isn’t that say that the song isn’t a good one, it is good to be sure, but Welch needs to stretch herself a bit beyond the ‘blood-and-thunder’ act she has going on, because it’s getting old fairly quickly.