To anyone else, a pop album inspired by the "tragic heroines of pre-Raphaelite art" might come across as eccentric. For Florence Welch, who has built her career on a stage persona that's part Stevie Nicks, part Kate Bush and part Victorian ghost, it's par for the course. The difference between her previous work and her fifth album, however, is in the minor details.
On first listen, Dance Fever – its title inspired by Welch’s fascination with “the dancing plague” outbreaks of the middle ages – sounds like just another Florence and the Machine album: impressive operatic vocals, big, theatrical pop numbers and epic, sweeping climaxes. Listen more closely, and you’ll hear songs that aptly reflect Welch’s vulnerability and insecurities as a thirtysomething. King muses on her potential as a mother, The Bomb ruminates over a romantic relationship, and more than one song here cogitates over the healing power of songwriting, music and creativity.
Stylistically, the electropop flash of My Love is an outlier. Although there are plenty of rousing moments – many aided by producers and songwriters such as Jack Antonoff and Dave Bayley of Glass Animals – the quieter moments are the most satisfying, such as the cinematic thrum of Cassandra. Heaven Is Here and Daffodil reflect her other noted inspirations of gothic horror and folk horror. Yes, this is a pop album by a major artist – but could it mark the beginning of a new, slightly weirder era of Florence and the Machine?