‘I feel that life’s like a consistent acid trip, those times when things keep coming back.’
– Florence Welch
I have wanted to post something on Florence for a while. Credits be due, I saw the word ‘flobsessed’ on the band’s official forum*, and I thought the word applied to me so well that I decided to borrow it. I am absolutely fascinated by Florence’s sound, and I do believe she’s an exceptional composer and interpreter.
In this post, I hope to tell you a bit about the band, their music, and lyrics.
Hope you enjoy!
The band + the work
Florence + the Machine** is the recording name of the British singer Florence Welch. The band is composed by several and changeable musicians who play the music onto which Florence puts her vocals. However, Florence works with some friends who have been the formation of the band for a while now. BBC pushed Florence’s career further when it invited the band for its BBC introducing.
The first album, Lungs, came out in 2009. In 2010, the album won the category of Mastercard British Album award at the BRIT Awards. That was just the beginning of the recognition of Florence’s work. The band has been experiencing increasing popularity – they have played in important festivals and ceremonies, like the Glastonbury Festival, The Grammy, and The Oscar.
Sounds + voices
The sound of the Machine includes guitar, bass, and drums as well as percussion and harp. All songs are born with some kind of aura, quite distinguishable as the band’s. Florence’s voice is unique: exquisite and full of a bittersweet personality. Her voice and the melodies make a perfect union: music that touches you, that makes you want to sing out loud and dance around.
Words + stories
One of the most fascinating features of the band is their lyrics. Florence says she composes when she is drunk or has hangover, for she believes that’s when her creative flow is at its best. Enough for the myth of the bohemian artist. True or not, the fact is that her lyrics are full of spooky and marvelous stories, and are much more than merely songs ‘about boys’ as she unpretentiously states. Let’s see how those lyrics go:
Florence’s lyrics are mostly full of Gothic imagery: pain, secrets, misplacement, fear, mysteries, blood, uncanny images and feelings. More than telling us about broken-hearted girls, her lyrics lead us into a world of imagination and melancholy.
‘Girl with one eye’: a song of violent love. The lyric tells us about a pretty girl who messes with the singer-narrator (let’s call her poet) who, in her turn, gets furious with beauty. The reason of the fury is made clear in the chorus [‘I’ll cut your little heart out cause you made me cry’]. But the great violence this contradictory love generates is not only a threat: the title of the song is explained in the lyric that also let us know about the satisfaction the imposed pain causes for the one inflicting it [‘I took a knife and cut out her eye, I took it home to watch it wither and die, she’s lucky that I didn’t slip her a smile, that’s why she sleeps with one eye open’]. With these words, it makes it hard for me not to think of Poe’s ‘Black Cat’, the short-story in which the narrator tells us how he cut out the eye of his cat, even knowing how much the animal loved him. The violent and bloody love that leads to mutilation and hurting. [this song is originally performed by Ludes]
‘Bird song’: one of the most spooky and wonderful songs I ever heard. The lyric is about a poet who fears that the bird which is outside her window sings of what she has done. The narrator invites the bird in ‘just to reason with him’ and to promise she won’t do ‘it’ again. But the bird sings louder and louder, and the poet, desperate, tries to make it stop. She ends up killing the bird for it won’t stop singing. But later, while she is sleeping, she listens a tweet; when she wakes up, she cannot speak or shout, and she moves her arms as if they were wings. Then she realizes: ‘the sound was coming from my mouth’. The poet turned into the bird she killed. The great thing about this lyric is that one can read it as the bird being a metaphor for the poet’s other ‘I’ who gets killed, some kind of conscience that needs to be silenced. The metamorphosis into an animal, especially one which was murdered, can be linked to the horror stories our literatures are so full of.
‘My boy builds coffins’: another Gothic lyric that tells us the story of the poet’s lover who builds coffins for a living. But, as the pooet leaves implicit, the boyfriend has a gift for the craft [‘my boy builds coffins, he makes them all day, but it’s not just for work, and it isn’t for play’]. The fear of death is forgotten before the unique coffins the young man makes, and even faced with tranquility [‘he’s made one for himself, one for me too, and one of these days he’ll make one for you’]; of course, this craft can be considered a threat of the certainty of death as well as a challenging skill.
‘Howl’: is a song about the evil, dreadful consequences of love. That kind of love which makes us animal-like, so desperate and wild that our senses are converged in one thing only: that who or which we love. The lust of the flesh and senses are sung in very poetic and somewhat savage lyric: ‘I run my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart’. The desire to possess the other fully, emotionally and physically, turns one into a beast, a wild creature that knows no boundaries for its yearnings. [‘my blood is singing with your voice, I want to pour it out, the saints can’t help me now, the ropes have been unbound, I hunt for you with bloodied feet across the hallowed ground’]. A quite Gothic love story.
‘Ghosts’: a haunting song about someone who is haunted by a ghost. But it’s not an external ghost, but one from within [‘there’s a ghost in my lungs and it sighs in my sleep, wraps itself around my tongue as it softly speaks, then it walks, then it walks with my legs, to fall, to fall, to fall at your feet’], the most terrifying kind, one which can only be sensed but not defeated. The ghost of the self, the entrapped ‘I’ who wants to get out and wander the world. Or else, the ghost of love, which haunts the hearts of the lovers so to torment them. All of Florence’s lyrics have this haunting characteristic, in one way or another.
‘Falling’: a confession of the fear of life itself, and the failure we are all condemned to. The endless free-falling is preferred instead of the facing of the impact of the fall itself. [‘sometimes I wish for falling, wish for the release, wish for falling through the air, to give me some relief, because falling’s not the problem, when I’m falling I’m in peace, it’s only when I hit the ground, it causes all the grief’]. The act of falling is seen as freedom, as a release of all that keeps one captive – the ultimate relief. The freedom feeling is increased by the Florence’s release of her own voice at the end of the song.
‘Heavy in your arms’: a very dark, gloomy love for a very exquist song. A love that bounds, that imprisons and leads to death [‘my love has concrete feet, my love’s an iron ball, wrapped around your ankles, over the waterfall]. One of the darkest lyrics by Florence, this one is full of imagery: the concrete-like love, the waterfall, the drowning [‘I was a heavy heart to carry, my feet dragged across ground, and he took me to the river, where he slowly let me drown’], the ill-fated love. Still, it is also a lyric about the strength of love, its power, and magic [‘when he had me in his arms, my feet never touched the ground’].
ok, so this is it for the 1st part of this post.
hope you have at least got curious about Flo’s work, and try to check it out.
for part 2 of the post i’ll talk about the ‘lighter’ lyrics, the more magical and sweeter ones.
official website http://florenceandthemachine.net/