No 201: Florence & The Machine

Today, Paul Lester introduces us to another young British woman singing the blues, currently being chased around London by record executives with chequebooks

Hometown: London.

The lineup: Florence Welch (vocals), Dev (guitar).

The background: Not sure what it says about their psyche and/or the state of the (female) nation, but there would appear to be something of an upsurge right now of young British women singing the blues. Whereas 20 years ago we would have looked to America, Canada or beyond - to Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses, Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs, to Mary Margaret O'Hara or Björk - for idiosyncratic female voices drawing on wells of pain to relate their travails and express their sorrow at the human condition, these days every time you turn a corner there's a waif-like creature with a powerful set of lungs bellowing her tales of woe.

Presumably it's the Amy Effect. But unlike Winehouse, who musically is rooted more in showbiz traditions, in the polished sound of Motown, 60s girl-group pop and soul, the 20-year-old Florence Welch, like her peers Liz Green and the highly touted Adele, has her roots in the rough and ragged sound of American pre-war folk and blues. Accompanied by a different - disposable? - male guitarist at most gigs (although at the moment Devonte "Dev" Hynes, formerly of Test Icicles and now Lightspeed Champion mainman, is hanging on in there, and she's looking to form a band, possibly around him), the skinny, freckle-faced redhead in the floral shirt tied to the waist is the centre of attention as she pounds the floor with her foot and fills the room with her songs about gouging out enemy female eyes and burying boyfriends, her cautionary tales and exorcisms of Catholic guilt. On her MySpace she describes her music playfully as grindcore but also as Melodramatic Popular Song. Really, it's the most powerfully simple, stripped-back, rocked-up folk'n'blues, with a scintilla of guitar and smidgeon of drums. She hasn't got a record deal yet, but she's managed by Camden DJs the Queens of Noize, which is probably why the light-skinned "enchanted skeleton" with the dark subject matter, kooky stagecraft of Kate Bush, feisty growl of Janis Joplin and pastoral menace of Sandy Denny, is currently being chased all over London by men bearing chequebooks. Hope she doesn't bite back.

The buzz: "A voice so hauntingly captivating you can feel it in your stomach."

The truth: It's early days yet, but Florence will haunt and captivate, although not necessarily simultaneously.

Most likely to: Astonish with her raw emotion.

Least likely to: Make you long for That Petrol Emotion.

File next to: Adele, Liz Green, Kristin Hersh, Amy Winehouse.

What to buy: There is no release scheduled yet, and no record deal - yet.

Links: MySpace page

Tomorrow's new band: Rochelle.

Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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