Florence Welch seems to be taking a pretty peculiar path to diva(-ish) status. Rather than attempting to cement for herself a place in the public imagination as some kind of flashy, self-destructive, preening, tragic wretch, Welch has opted to amplify her persona by putting out a debut record without a single bad song on it. Someone needs to tell her that if she keeps up this impressive work, she’ll never get anywhere.
A lot of acts with a similar amount of buzz would, and have, just put out an ordinary major-label debut: There are the singles, some OK filler, and some not so great filler. In the desperately eager atmosphere of alternative music today, a record that’s honestly middling is enough to convince most fans that it’s better than it is and most writers to hang around for the follow-up. But Welch and her band, the Machine, took the harder route: With Lungs, they produced a record that is truly good.
Welch, like every pop act, is trying to use her music directly to influence her image, but something about the consistency and craft of Lungs makes it seem that Florence + the Machine cares about the look of her music more than most. The Florence of Lungs’ 13 tracks comes off as melodramatic and blunt, forceful and vulnerable. Like any good singer-songwriter, Welch’s tools are an exceptionally lovely voice and a keen ear for pleasing vocal melodies, and when either of those things seem less than impressive, the Machine comes through.
Part of the way that pop fans evaluate music is to consider the utility with which a track has been created, and that’s the thing about Lungs that’s immediately appealing. Nothing here is mindblowing, but it’s all compelling and obviously the work of smart and talented artists that it’s a genuine pleasure to experience.