Florence Welch’s fifth album is a startling return, full of all the elements which made us sit up and take notice of her in the first place
Despite being titled Dance Fever, Florence Welch’s fifth album is not one filled with disco bangers, nor is it a sharp left turn into Euro-trance territory. Instead, this feels very much like a Florence And The Machine album – full of big, pop-rock euphoric anthems, which of course you can also dance to, if the mood takes you.
The album actually takes its title from a historical event which Welch read about a few years ago – a plague in medieval times called choreomania, where people would literally dance until they dropped dead of exhaustion. Just after she started recording the songs that would make up this album, a very different plague hit the world, and lockdown scuppered her plans.
So, two years later, we eventually have Dance Fever, which is billed as her most personal album to date. It certainly boasts an arresting opening line in King’s “We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children, about the world ending and the scale of my ambition”. From there, it builds up into a huge anthem to self-acceptance, with its chorus of “I am no mother, I am no bride, I am king”. It’s a fine way to kick off the album.
Dance Fever marks Welch’s first collaboration with Jack Antonoff, who’s produced so many records by female artists in the last few years. Although it still sounds very much like a Florence And The Machine record, there seems to be a step back from the bombast of her previous work.
Choreomania (about the closest this record comes to a title track) also displays a self-aware sense of humour, introduced by a spoken word section of “I’m freaking out in the middle of the street, with the complete conviction of someone who’s never had anything really bad happen to them”. The intricate handclaps and hints of harp hark back to Dog Days Are Over, and the same sense of giddy abandonment builds up through the song.
Antonoff seems to have reawakened Welch’s pop sensibility as well. Free is a naggingly catchy little number that lodges in the brain indelibly, while My Love is a stadium-sized disco banger that is bound to become a highlight of her live set. Crucially though, he never seems to lose sight of those unique qualities that make her such a compelling artist.
It’s also an album where Welch wears her heart on her sleeve. Girls Against God was written during the first lockdown, and it shows: lines like “It’s good to be alive, crying into cereal at midnight” and “If they ever let me out, I’m gonna really let it out” sum up the frustration of the inertia of that period. There’s also a namecheck for Tom Vek thrown in, for good measure.
Back In Town nods to Lana Del Rey‘s languid love songs, and seems to be an ode to returning to New York after a long absence – describing the city as “Lit up like a movie scene, that halogen glow, and if you get spat on, that’s just your big city baptism” perfectly sum up both the glamour and grime of Manhattan.
The quieter moments hit hard, such as The Bomb, which begins with a big draw of breath, and slowly develops into a rather lovely shuffling country-ish piano ballad, but those who love Florence’s big, soul-stirring anthems won’t be disappointed either. Dream Girl Evil builds up and up until it sounds like it’s about to take off, and Daffodil has a scope to it that becomes almost cinematic.
Considering this year marks Florence And The Machine’s 15 year anniversary, they could be forgiven for sounding a bit tired and jaded by now. Instead, Dance Fever is a startling return, full of all the elements which made us sit up and take notice of Welch in the first place.