The band's latest album contains Florence Welch's most honest lyrics yet
For her band’s fourth album ‘High As Hope’, Florence Welch – now two years sober – has retrospectively written about her heady past, steeped in all-night partying, drink, drugs, family issues, and her never-ending love for south London. The record oozes nostalgia and yearning – combined with a new-found maturity and, even, fragility from the Camberwell-born singer.
In this album, unlike her previous ones, 31-year old Welch looks back on her party days, having come out the other side: older, calmer, and (somewhat) at peace with herself. Consequently, the album’s sound is stripped back – often down to just vocals, a few piano chords, and some percussion – while the lyrics are Welch’s most open and revealing so far. We’ve taken a look at the biggest talking points from ‘High As Hope.’
She addresses her eating disorder
Welch opens up about her eating disorder in single ‘Hunger,’ singing: “At seventeen, I started to starve myself / I thought that love was a kind of emptiness /And at least I understood then the hunger I felt.” Speaking about the lines in an interview with The Observer, Welch said: “It’s the first time I’ve been able to put it on paper,” adding: ““I know how to deal with it in a song, but a lot of stuff I’m… still figuring out?”
And her issues with drink/drugs
Florence + The Machine’s latest record is littered with references to Welch’s infamous two-day parties. On tracks like ‘South London Forever’, Welch croons: “And the places that I used to drink / Young and drunk and stumbling in the street…/High on E and holding hands with someone that I just met.” In another track, ‘Grace’, Welch talks about being “drunk in Camberwell again”, and in ‘Hunger’, she sings: “And it’s Friday night and it’s kicking in /And I’m getting dressed, they’re gonna crucify me.”
Speaking about the lyrics in the band’s latest album, Welch told the Telegraph of her former partying days: “At first it’s freeing but then it becomes a prison of its own making. I thought you needed a hangover to write.” She added: “I’m happier now, I’m content, but I’m never going to be fixed, ever. I don’t think that’s how it works.”
Relations with her family
Welch is alarmingly candid about her issues with her family, particularly in her track ‘Grace’, which is dedicated to her younger sister for years of missed birthdays. Welch sings: “Grace, and it was such a mess /Grace, I don’t say it enough /Grace, you are so loved.”
The singer also addresses tensions with her mum, who is a lecturer in Renaissance studies at King’s College London and was skeptical about Welch’s musical ambitions. Other lyrics in ‘Grace’ include: “I guess I could go back to university / Try and make my mother proud.”
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Welch said of the song: “Grace [my sister] was literally like, ‘what the fuck? You put me through all that, now this? You could’ve just told me you loved me.” She added: “I have huge feelings for her; she’s such an important person in my life, but there’s no way we could sit down in front of each other and go ‘I love you so much’. But our family is riddled with intimacy issues. We’re terrible at being told we’re loved and telling people we love them. So that song is just like a big bomb.”
Getting older (and wiser)
Lyrically, ‘High As Hope’ contains an array of profound comments from Welch, who sings from a more mature (and sober) perspective. On ‘Hunger’ she says: “I thought that love was in the drugs / But the more I took, the more it took away.” On closer ‘No Choir,’ she pines: “I thought that love was in the drugs / But the more I took, the more it took away.” And, on ‘South London Forever,’ she sings: “Did I dream too big?
Do I have to let it go?” These lyrics bear a resemblance to Welch’s reflection on album three’s ‘Ship To Wreck’: “Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build this ship to wreck?”
A love of South London
In many ways, ‘High As Hope’ is an ode to Welch’s south London roots. Born and raised in Camberwell, the musician references the south-side of the capital repeatedly in this record, most notably in track ‘South London Forever.’ In this song, Welch sings: “young and drunk and stumbling in The Joiners Arms, like foals unsteady on their feet,” later adding: “And we climbed onto the roof, the museum / And someone made love in the ground.”
Speaking about the lyrics, Welch told The Sunday Times: “I was on the roof of the Horniman Museum, being a teenager, you know — ‘Woah.’ Then I blinked and, four albums later, it’s ‘Oh my God, there’s a whole other section of life I’m supposed to figure out. When do I do that?’”
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