Music Review: Dance Fever - Florence + The Machine
Press my corpse against the wall...
Alright y’all, I’ve spent a solid month digesting the fifth Florence album and can now give a proper review of the entire thing.
For those who have known me for more than a few weeks know that I’ve listened to Florence + The Machine almost exclusively since 2011. That’s four solid years of just Lungs and Ceremonials with B-sides, Demos, and the movie songs. I spent a few days in 2014 with Breath of Life on loop. I’ll detox with some synthwave, lofi, or Fiona Apple once in a while but back when I used Spotify I would have my Florence playlists on shuffle for hours.
This is an absolutely biased, one sided, partisan review that can not be taken seriously whatsoever. Florence could put out an album where she reads the phone book and I’d buy the deluxe special edition.
Normal people would have different artists on each of those squares, one for each decade of Spotify use. I was consistently in the top 1% of listeners for several years. Let’s just say, I’m one of the folks who is hoping to see Paper Massacre on every new album release. But I haven’t been to every live show on the planet (I have kids, shows are expensive, and I’m not 20 anymore.) and I’m also not one of the “dresses up like an extra in Midsommar” festival goers, I’m the kind who is in the jeans and t-shirt.
But Is The New Album Any Good?
Before we dig into that let me give you my rankings for the other albums first, just to give you a good idea of where I’m coming from with the following review.
Best Albums in Order:
Dance Fever [9.4]
HB3 (How Big How Blue How Beautiful) 
High As Hope [8.9]
Top Ten Songs in Order:
Over the Love
What the Water Gave Me
Breath of Life
You’ve Got The Love
Lover to Lover
Never Let Me Go
Dream Girl Evil*
*From Dance Fever
I’ve added two from the new album into my top ten songs and placed the album itself in the third place. Feel free to argue any of that with me in the comments below but that’s where we are right now. If you went into this album expecting an actual club dance record then I don’t know what to tell you. Yeah she did “Sweet Nothing” with Calvin Harris, it’s fun.
Just like Sarah McLachlan’s “Silence” with Delirium I don’t expect a whole McLachlan album of similar dance music even if she named it “Rave Juice”. Florence has been using modern dance as an outlet for many things over the years and if you didn’t pick up on that with this album then I don’t know what to tell ya.
This band has been going strong for over a decade and like any large ensemble you will gain/lose members along the way. You can’t expect the original folks to still be around after all this time, Isabella Summers has been busy with all of her tv/movie score work these days it was not a surprise to see a lack of her name in the credits. When the band tours they TOUR, members of the Machine probably don’t have a lot of time to do anything else when the band is playing a show nearly every other day for a year. If Tom or Rob also decide to step down to do something new down the line I wouldn’t hold it against them either.
One thing I love about the design of this album is the switch from Tom Beard to Autumn De Wilde on the photography. I have the deluxe vinyl, CD, and cassette versions of this album and they are all amazingly well designed. The music videos for the songs are exactly what you'd expect from a Florence X De Wilde collab.
BILL NIGHY? In a music video! Yes, please. Now, for the songs themselves. Yep, I’m going over every song individually as they all deserve.
I am no mother I am no bride I am king
From the first time I heard this song all I could think of was the Emily Dickinson poem “I’m wife - I’ve finished that.”
I’m “wife”—I’ve finished that— That other state— I’m Czar—I’m “Woman” now— It’s safer so— How odd the Girl’s life looks Behind this soft Eclipse— I think that Earth feels so To folks in Heaven—now— This being comfort—then That other kind—was pain— But why compare? I’m “Wife”! Stop there!
This song is about the domestic options male singers have compared to women. Yeah you can tour while pregnant and take care of your kid while traveling and playing 300 shows in a row, but let’s be reasonable. Men can leave the kid behind with mom and continue the career as usual, if they even know the kid exists. This song feels like giving light to that issue, just like Dickinson’s poem about a “woman’s place” in the mid 1800’s. Emily also never married or had kids, obviously not for a career in music but the concept of independence that would have disappeared for her upon marriage. Florence’s song laments this same loss of career independence (making art instead of making babies):
How much art is really worth The thing you're best at
She wants to write and perform music, and thankfully chooses this because that's who she is. Even when her tastes in things change, or she moves on to something else the need to create art and professionally perform it takes precedence over a rigid domestic life.
I almost used “I cannot live with you” by Dickinson to compare this song to something but Welch isn’t turning anyone down really, she is stating who she is. As far as the music we start the album with what feels like a reintroduction to the early Lungs flavor of songs with smart lyrics gently stabbed with piercing vocals, and King has a very obvious one that just drags you back to 2011. It’s what we were missing in HaH and it’s all coming back.
This bad boy is a very opaque look at Welch’s personal struggles with anxiety. It seems like it is a very common thing for people these days (before the pandemic as well) and Welch’s way of dealing with such things is creating art, dancing, and performing. Doing what she loves frees her from that crippling condition of stress and restlessness.
The music here is rhythmic, upbeat, and rapid. I don’t like to use the word repetitive because that implies boredom, this is drilling home the concept of being anxious. It all works. This song also has a flavor to it on the vocals which feels like she is shouting through a PA system or megaphone. Just ever so slightly. Just a splash of it. And it’s great.
This song is named after the dancing sickness from the 1500’s where folks caught something that caused involuntary rhythmic movements. Again we have rhythmic repeating lyrics that further imply the compulsory need to dance and move and do something.
The music here has a slow buildup to the classic grand wall of chorus that we got back in Ceremonials, a vocal howl that I swear we’ve heard in another song and I can’t quite pin it down but when I do I’ll edit this to say which song it is. (I want to say it is wtwgm but not sure.)
I think because the previous albums were so cut back and raw that this one feels so much grander and fleshed out.
BACK IN TOWN
Alright, this one isn’t really a song as much as it is a lyrical poem that’s being performed. Compared to the others on this album it’s very relaxed, calm, and soothing. You can’t run on all 12 cylinders for a whole album and you’ve gotta have some chill stuff mixed in for good pacing.
GIRLS AGAINST GOD
This isn’t as blasphemous as you think it is. Florence herself has talked about how this song was about a time during the pandemic where she was angry at God for not being able to do shows and perform etc, then realized how silly it was that God would care if she was mad. Imagining an army of angry girls in their pajamas eating cereal waging war against something so far removed and powerful then they were was a funny concept. This is even more fun because this song has a chorus which is very much like a drunken bar anthem.
This is a song about futile anger and realizing how silly it is to be mad about it. It starts out smooth and brings in the chorus which I think more Florence songs really need especially for live performances where all of her songs really shine.
DREAM GIRL EVIL
OUR GIRL IS BACK! A 1960’s anti-war anthem mixed in with shitty possessive behavior. Man, *chefs kiss*. I swear Janis Joplin is up there right now singing along to this song. The lyrics are very obviously about the behavioral issue some people have where they create a version of someone in their head and flip out when they don’t act the way they expect in reality.
This one has a mix of vocal howls, spoken word lyrics, chorus chanting, holding onto whole notes for dear life, everything you want in a F+TM song. It’s so good I’ve added it to my top ten songs.
This is similar to Back In Town as a palette cleanser between the big beefy songs on this album. It’s just over a minute long and is more of a spoken word poem than a commercial pop song. In fact.. it’s only two stanzas:
All the things that I ran from I now bring as close to me as I can Ripping hotel sheets with gritted teeth My montage of lost things, it's mine Shiny trinkets of grief Why don't you give me a call? Open my mouth, yes, I'll take it all Know it's work onto work Maybe finally you shut the gate
This is just short and sweet enough that it leads up to the next song perfectly. Honestly, having Dream Girl and Cassandra back to back would have been musical whiplash.
I have to preface this next bit with the fact that the first dozen times I listened to this song I physically began to cry. That’s not a joke, it wasn’t just a bad day, it was every time for several days. The first listen through of the album had me worried I wouldn’t find a song I was immediately hooked on until this one showed up and proceeded to drag me seven miles down the road. It’s now in my top 5 songs.
How do I describe this? Maybe it’s nostalgia for the first two albums, but something about the feel of this song just cuts into me. Cassandra was a greek myth about a priestess of Apollo who was cursed to give true prophecies that would never be believed. There is also a joke that it will be a good Florence song if the title is a random woman’s name. But, y’all, this song delivers. It’s a firehose.
I know it’s written to be a mirror of Florence’s songwriting, being able to imaging the songs being played live, while during covid she couldn’t see them being played live due to the uncertainty of things at the time.
Y’all, this song:
And the churches they all closed their doors You can take your complaints straight to the Lord
Everything I thought I knew has fallen out of view In this blindness that I'm condemned to
Every song I thought I knew I've been deafened to And there's no one left to sing to
Then there is just the sound of this thing. It could fit on Ceremonials. Vocal howls, spoken words over a series crescendo’s, you don’t run into the wall of sounds the wall of sound runs into you. It’s a modern lamentation the likes of which will take another four years to surpass. Similar to Remain Nameless this song deserves better than your shit tier laptop speakers. This is why DAC’s, headphone amps, and the Sennheiser HD650’s were created. Regardless, when it is over it leaves you like:
HEAVEN IS HERE
Yet another chanty lyrical song because they had to buffer the power radiating from Cassandra. It’s rhythmic, simple and pure. The start reminds me of a playground song one would sing while playing jumprope, then swells into a proper song. Basically clapping in any Florence song is a good thing. It leads you up for:
At about 3 minutes there busts in this epic percussion section that just totally makes this whole song. Like, it’s slow and ethereal until that point and honestly it just ends too soon. So many of these songs end too soon.
Back in the 2010’s Florence + The Machine played on the top 10 pop radio stations. Dog Days or Shake it out can still be heard once in a while because those songs were catchy upbeat pop songs. The majority of Florences work is thrown into the Baroque Rock or Indie Rock categories. My Love attempts to be one of those top ten pop songs but is too refined and established to be there. It’s an extremely floral sound that is very Florence + The Machine and a great fit for this album.
At less than a minute, it’s more of a Bird Song Intro than a full on song - perhaps it’s a spell. It was used as intro music for promo videos of the album and is probably one of the most haunting sounds on the whole record. But yeah, perhaps the restraint part is intentionally keeping it this short? Honestly you don’t notice the abruptness when playing the album all the way through.
This one is so fun, and a nice wind down from previous songs. It’s extremely light and upbeat for the theme. It’s strummy and unplugged country album flavored, but not too out of place considering the lead up to the next song. Honestly, if you shuffled these songs around the album would be wildly out of balance. This song has big Caught energy.
Story time with Florence! Elvis did gospel songs and this is more than inspired by that I think. This whole album is just screaming with introspection and when left alone during a pandemic that whole sitting around reflecting on the past bit will totally influence your work. For those who don’t know Florence used to have a drinking problem back during the first two albums and this song chronicles some of those events of being too drunk or hungover to do her job. Luckily for everyone she has been sober for several years now.
SEARCH AND DESTROY
The deluxe editions have a few acoustic versions of previous songs as well as this little number at the very end. Remember the grungy pop punk stuff from Lungs? This fits right in with Kiss With A Fist and Girl With One Eye. That extremely early Florence pops back in at the absolute end of this album and fits in so well. I sort of wish they had added this on the standard album and left the mini songs like Prayer Factory and Restraint to the bonus tracks.
So, to conclude this little review I just have to point out again just how good Cassandra is. Full stop, it’s the best song on the album and then it’s a close race between Girls Against God, Free, and Dream Girl Evil. Florence + The Machine songs are designed to be performed live and I can not wait to see how good these are in the wild. So many songs on this album have a chorus that can easily be sung along with, meaning an audience of ten thousand people is only going to enhance things. Florence is one of those singers who is equal to if not better than the recorded tracks in person. Final score: 9.4 because Prayer Factory and Restraint deserve to be twice as long.
Here is a vanilla link to the bands website where you can buy copies of the album, it’s also available on basically every music streaming service you can possibly imagine but just remember those Spotify links above pay the band pennies. I use links to them in this post for ease of use for you guys. If you like an album I beg you to buy a physical copy or a t-shirt or something to ensure they can afford to continue making music.