Whether a fan of her music or not, Florence Welch – of moniker-come-band Florence and the Machine – occupies a rare space in popular culture of genuine widespread respectability. It's hard to knock somehow whose meteoric rise to stardom in 2008 seemed to come out of absolute nowhere. Florence did the South London pub circuit rounds tirelessly, put out a handful of roughly produced demos before accosting Queens of Noize DJ Mairead Nash in the cubicle of a club toilet and forcing her to be her manager.
'Lungs' was then released in 2009, on the back of a couple of surprisingly high-charting singles. All the indie credentials were there: specifically production courtesy of not only Paul Epworth (of Bloc Party, Kate Nash association), not just James Ford (one-half of indie club royalty Simian Mobile Disco), but also Pulp's Stephen Mackey and mixing by Cenzo Townshend (formerly having worked with New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen). It was hardly a bad bunch for Florence to rub shoulders with, and the resulting record was one that achieved plaudits right across the board.
The album's opener 'Only If For A Night' is the type of track you're likely to hear covered in many emphatic performances during this year's X-Factor as well as many of the series to come. 'Shake It Out' – the first single taken from the record - continues the ceremonial pomp over the previous track, with a culminating chorus that explodes in ecstacy – it's what you'd expect if Kate Bush ever decided to cover Mariah.
'What The Water Gave Me' slows things down a measure, as does the spooky 'Seven Devils' – a song backed by organs and chords and one that makes you wonder why the label didn't decide to snap-release it on All Hallow's Eve. I'm sure that just like the ample supplies of toffee apples and Scream makes it too wouldn't have had any trouble shifting.
As has always been the case with Florence, her finest asset is her haunting voice, that forever sits on the verge of sending shivers down your spine in one way or another. 'No Light, No Light' sees the singer stretching notes – and her vocal cords - dangerously near to breaking point before the track climaxes in perfect precision.
Musically, the album exhibits much growth and expansion from 'Lungs' – but instead of being a blessing, it becomes a burden to the record at times. On many instances, it is too easy to be bogged down by the vastness of the instrumentation – distracting from Florence at the fore.
Lyrics have never Florence's strong point, despite the grandeur of her subject matter – death, isolation and the like - and it is precisely this gigantic production that pulls the rug away on this at moments. Amongst all the pomp and ceremony, the lyrics sound too generic and too anthemic – you wonder what would be left if you stripped it all away.
'Ceremonial' sees Florence stretch her wings and is definitely a growth from her previous offering, but perhaps a stretch too far and in the wrong direction.