Single Review: Florence + the Machine – ‘Shake It Out’

“It’s an alcohol-infused trip through her world drunk on it’s own hi-fi-ness”


Digital Release: October 2, 2011

Physical Release: N/A

Listening to a Florence + the Machine song for the first time is a bit like being punched in the face. At first there’s the awareness of the impending collision; you brace your whole body and grimace a little, preparing for the worst, and then it strikes. In the aftermath, once the encounter between hard knuckle and soft cheek is over – or, Florence Welch’s cathartic bellow and your delicate eardrums – there’s an eerie pause of realisation and a rush of feral energy; your heart pumps blood double-time, as large amounts of adrenaline are dumped into your blood-stream in the final bars of the song. Then, steadily, you re-run the experience through your head again, coming to terms with what just happened.

Florence Welch is gifted with one of the most diverse voices in the industry. With more mature elegance and poise than the most-angelic moments of an Ellie Goulding song, and with a more full-bodied roar than the reedy screech of a Jessie J song, she masterfully commands Paul Epworth’s enormous productions. Beginning with a swelling organ, ‘Shake It Out’ wastes no time in launching itself ferociously into it’s stride, spreading it’s expansive, genre-marrying wings and settling comfortably into a stadium-sized atmosphere, filling every corner of space available. 

Breaking it down, there’s a lot of typical Welch-flavoured lyrics and indecipherable references to something or other. It seems everything she puts her name to is a colossal adaptation of something very basic – falling in love, falling out of love, or in ‘Shake It Out’s case, trying to rid a hangover. There’s this very tangible baseline to the ethereal reality she imposes in her songs, giving her music a physical bearing which manifests in the hands of those listening. Sure, there’s mystical  about demons, darkness, corpses and all kinds of violent, neo-gothic nuances. But ploughing your way through it all with the numinous intensity she does – an imperative when wishing to fully comprehend her songs – and you find that the foundations of the song tie the high-flying metaphors to something we can all understand.

For this pale-faced 24-year old, matter of the head and heart aren’t simply decisions to be made. Welch sees everyday occurrences as awe-inspiring and as mystical and the Big Bang itself, but her secret to success barely merits such a name. Her success is no secret. One of the reasons her second album hasn’t floated into obscurity nor played prairie-dog with the public consciousness (á la ‘Lungs’) is because her music and lyrics consult things that have always and will always be: love, death, sex, anger, violence; big themes that will still be part of human nature in 200 years time, rather than of-the-moment songs about clubs. ‘Shake It Out’ is one-part hangover, one-part mesmerising mystical nonsense, one-part Epworth, and all three entities collide with such magnitude they fully combust on impact; it’s an alcohol-infused trip through her world drunk on it’s own hi-fi-ness.

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1 Comment

  1. Silvio R

    Just before I went to check out the new single, I read your review. The first lines. I saw you awarded her song 5 stars and that’s very rare of you. I was kind of critical, because I am very rarely impressed by a song to proclaim it perfect, but, like the aforementioned punch, the song was an explosion of energy, right in my face. One of the first times I had Goosebumps at the first ten seconds.

    It was overwhelming. It was pure, and it was mystical. It created a dark scenery that you find all too relatable, yet humbling. You think of a time when you saw that, and you acknowledge that Florence is a goddess, for the simple fact that she can pull out an anthem, from the most mundane of experiences.

    5 stars. Bright, bright ones.


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