Album: Florence and the Machine - How Big, How Beautiful

3/5

Florence Welch has, by all accounts, been through a gruelling time since her 2011 album, Ceremonials, catapulted her onto the arena-rock A-list.Exhausted by endless touring, her personal life in disarray, she was adrift and confused: she had achieved everything she had dreamed of — so why did she feel so empty inside?

The nadir, she subsequently confessed, was an MTV interview, during which she was conspicuously the worse for wear. It set alarms clanging: she’d plunged into the lifestyle of carefree rock goddess and it had started to turn dark.

All of which might be expected to have yielded an interesting third LP. Actually, How Big How Beautiful is absolutely dreary in its adherence to the conventions of stadium pop. On songs such as ‘What Kind Of Man?’ and ‘St Jude’, the choruses are big and booming, with a nostril-troubling whiff of Coldplay and Snow Patrol. There is little sense of an artist going out on a limb: having shifted over one million copies of her previous record, Florence has opted not to tinker with a winning formula. That’s a disappointment, as even drive-time peers, such as Mumford and Sons, have lately demonstrated a willingness to alienate their fan-base by trying something different.

Instead, Florence has opted to give us a buffed-up, super-sized version of her earlier work. There are echoes of 2009 debut, Lungs, on ‘Ship To Wreck’; the sonorous refrain of the title track evokes the photoshopped histrionics of Ceremonials. Fans will love it — or at least feel relieved that Florence has stuck to what she knows. But those initially intrigued by a singer who seemed primed to update the filigree weirdness of Bjork and Kate Bush will be disappointed that, here, she sounds like just another pop star braying to the gallery.

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