Review: “Lungs” by Florence + The Machine (CD, 2009)

Today’s POP RESCUE is the 2009 debut album Lungs, by Florence + The Machine. Does this album sound like a breath of fresh air, or feel more like a lung full of tar? Read on…

Florence + The Machine (2009) album

This is my first foray into owning any Florence + The Machine, aside from a remix of her cover of You’ve Got The Love.

Second single Dog Days Are Over gently opens the album, with some harp and handclaps, before the bass and drums kick in. Florence’s vocals are delicate but defiantly strong. This is sounding somewhat like the wonderful vocals of former-Morcheeba and Noonday Underground vocalist Daisy Martey, or a female Patrick Wolf. Whilst it’s nice enough, the single stalled at #23 in the UK.

This is followed be the first big hit, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), reaching #12 in the UK singles chart. The pace here is faster, and the sound is far rockier. I can see why this fared better than the opening track.

Next up is I’m Not Calling You which showcases Florence Welch’s vocals perfectly, but her sharp-key vocal style is boring me already. The song is gentle – a wandering piano with light percussion, which is joined by strings, including harp, and there’s also some angelic like backing vocals.

Howl is next, and even the title is making me twitch nervously, as she’s done enough of that already.  Thankfully, this song has more oompf to it, and her wailing vocals have something to do here and it fits against the beat and wonderfully soaring strings.

This is followed by debut single Kiss With A Fist, which opens with Florence alone, speaking, before some indie-styled guitars come roaring in. Okay, it’s pretty jaunty, but it doesn’t feel like it belongs here, and it could have been by anyone. Even Florence’s screechy vocals don’t really stand out here. Unsurprisingly, this flopped at #51 in the UK singles chart. It makes me feel like it belongs on an album by The Concretes.

Next up is Girl With One Eye, which gives Florence plenty of space to explore vocally as the guitar casually wanders around in the background. A high-hat joins in, followed by a bass drum. Eventually, the track reaches a heavy rocky climax. This feels like a nice album closing track, but sadly it isn’t.

Drumming Song follows, which acted as the fifth single from the album. There’s lots of layers of sound here – backing vocals, piano, bass, percussion, and guitar. In a way it makes me think of Enya or Clannad, but even that didn’t save it from stalling at #54 in the UK singles chart. It’s just not really a memorable song.

Percussion opens Between Two Lungs, which starts off quite simple, then ups the pace with some handclaps over some rich backing vocals and cello. Other than that, there’s little else memorable about this song.

Some wonderful harps bring Cosmic Love to life, with Florence’s vocals strong and defiant here over some intricate harp and beats. This song builds up, but once again, struggles to stand out from her paint-by-numbers approach to songs. This was the final single from this album, and it stalled at #51 in the UK charts. To it’s credit, it does have a nice harp and piano ending.

Tenth track My Boy Builds Coffins is next. Musically this sounds different, and Florence’s vocals are thankfully more reserved here. The track is quite warm and the guitar and bass help to keep a nice gentle pace. There’s some nice vocal harmonies here, again very much reminding me of something from a Patrick Wolf album.

Hurricane Drunk follows, and thankfully, like the previous song, Florence isn’t using her voice to blitz every other musical instrument. Here, the musical instruments and her voice are given enough space for themselves without competing. I could imagine this song being credibly covered by All Saints.

Penultimate track Blinding is up next, opening with some plucked strings and drifting vocals. There’s a ton of percussion and strings in this track, and this song works pretty well for what was kind of the end of the album…

…and then the cover of the Candi Staton hit You’ve Got The Love is up next. This song fits Florence’s vocals perfectly – as if it was her own song, and this version feels like quite a departure from the original. This is a highlight of the album, and an inspired cover version.

There. Phew. It’s over.

Florence + The Machine’s lead single, Kiss With A Fist.

Where are Florence + The Machine now?

Florence + The Machine garnered many award nominations and wins for this album, despite not always finding the singles reaching high positions.

The group released second album Ceremonials in 2011, giving them another #1 album in the UK. They also scored their first #1 single with the help of Calvin Harris, on single Spectrum (Say My Name).

The group continue to perform extensively with appearances in the US, including on TV, and at the Coachella Festival.


Ultimately, her sharp key vocals feel just too much track after track, and I struggled to get through this on three attempts. I found it grating, repetitively tedious, and self-indulgent, within minor exceptions (You’ve Got The Love, Howl, and My Boy Builds Coffins).

Rolling Stone described this album in 2009: “[t]he best bits feel like being chased through a moonless night by a sexy moor witch.” I think that’s spot on.

The album won the MasterCard British Album Of The Year. Somehow.

Rated 2 stars - A tough listen!
  • POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 2 / 5
  • 2009 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified 5x Platinum
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.

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