Florence Welch – 22, tall, stunning, with auburn hair and a fathomless voice part Kate Bush, Natasha Khan, Bjork and Patti Smith – is proof that when we were all joining the Talent queue some clearly arrived earlier than others.
The child of a Studio 54-frequenting art historian and an ad exec, Welch began sing-ing at family weddings and funerals but was into Italian opera at age 11; from there, then, to art college, where her pieces included a six-foot high display of flowers that spelled out ‘You’re a Twat’ and cake that proclaimed ‘It’s All Going to Get Worse’ in frosting. These days her art is all performance with art props: beautifully quirky outfits, clowns, confetti and a childhood collection of glittery birdcages decorate the stage, as she becomes a live wire for tunes that envelope the audience in a blanket of thick harmony and giddy eccentricity.
And so to Lungs. Lead single -Dog Days Are Over’, a summer track that forces you to bounce up and down with primal abandon, has helped make this one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Usually, expectations so impossibly high are (by definition) impossible to meet. But, if being crowned the Critic’s Choice at The Brits before Lungs came out isn’t enough to silence doubters, then the music itself will.
This very unusual, bewitching album weaves a thick spell in the manner of an almost feral Bat for Lashes. Shimmering harps and tall, layered walls of Welch’s harmonies put eye-wateringly gorgeous tracks like -Blinding’ and -Cosmic Love’ firmly in the nude dancing by forest moonlight mood while the frisky, adolescent, Ramones-like -Kiss with a Fist’ opts for cute-vicious punk guitars, and The Ludes cover -Girl with One Eye’ (‘I’ll cut your little heart out cause you made me cry’), like a lesbian Fatal Attraction, bares the album’s teeth.
Lungs is a mythical creature, with the intensity of Medea – proud and more than a little nuts – full of fearless beauty and sex appeal driven by Welch’s unbelievable vocals; enough to make you, headphones in ear, utter a bewildered ‘Wow.’
While it can be overwhelming, Lungs is at once wickedly pagan, potently feminine, beguiling and ultimately very affecting. Having garnered outstanding live reviews as well as a resoundingly positive reception to Lungs from most camps, it seems that Florence is well on her way. Did someone say Mercury Prize?