Review: What Kind of Man - Florence + the Machine
The band have embraced a new musical direction whilst retaining everything we loved about them before.
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It has been far too long since 2011’s Ceremonials. Florence + the Machine delivered an album on an epic scale, a battle ground between Florence’s personal gods and demons, complete with tribal drum beats, hollered confessions and monstrous choruses. Ceremonials was about as exciting as pop music can get, and four years on the group have a hard act to follow. Alas, we have to wait until June until the new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, is released, but until then we have lead single ‘What Kind of Man’. Has it been worth the four year wait?
The answer (rather predictably) is that it almost certainly has. The band have embraced a new musical direction whilst retaining everything we loved about them before. Gone is the occasionally empty pomp of some of the weaker songs on Ceremonials (such as the over-the-top-spookiness of ‘Seven Devils’) and gone are some of Florence’s more indecipherable metaphors. The sound is stripped back (at least by Florence’s standards) and the lyrics are direct. If the rest of the album is this good, then the band have made a huge leap forwards.
The track’s opening is achingly beautiful, reminiscent of the intro to ‘No Light, No Light’. As ever, we’re not entirely sure what’s going on. Florence is ‘trying to cross a canyon with a broken limb’, whilst her lover is on the ‘other side, like always, wondering what to do with life’. We’re left to ponder the (presumably metaphorical) canyon over a sparse and haunting synth backdrop, until out of nowhere rhythmic guitars move the song up a gear. Foot tapping (or head bobbing if you’re feeling adventurous) will certainly ensue.
The chorus is simplistic, yet disarmingly effective, with Florence asking ‘what kind of man loves like this?’ (probably not a very nice one). The rhyming is a little dubious in the verses, my favourites being ‘you let me dangle/ at cruel angles’ and ‘you do such damage/ how do you manage’. But after (quite a few) repeated listens they have definitely grown on me. With vocals shot through with elemental anger and Florence’s occasionally terrifying vocal power, the song chronicles the dynamics of conflict and dependence within a stormy relationship (at least that’s what I think). As always with Florence, the track somehow manages to get better and better throughout, climaxing with an utterly amazing final chorus, with wonderful backing singers to give even more force to the repeated question, and the infamous harp chips in for good measure. There’s also a brass section on this one, a much appreciated addition to Florence’s ever growing orchestra.
By the end of the track we’re left somewhat breathless, and eagerly anticipating the rest of the band’s third album. I for one am tremendously excited. The video for this one is also amongst Florence’s strangest, so if you’re ready to endure a shockingly pretentious (and quite badly acted) conversation between Florence and her ‘boyfriend’ for a minute and a half before the song starts, then it’s definitely worth watching. In it Florence’s dancing becomes even odder than usual, and she shouts in a man’s face. It makes for excellent viewing. There’s also a video for a more orchestral track from the album available, ‘How Big, How Blue’, in which Florence dances with her doppelganger, to bide us over until June. But for now, ‘What Kind of Man’ is essential listening.