Ceremonials (Deluxe Edition)
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The Sound of Neurosis

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Sometimes its the more low-key tracks that grab your attention. Florence + the Machine has risen to worldwide prominence with Florence Welsh's vocal gymnastics and dramatic production in tracks like 'Dog Days Are Over' and 'Shake It Out', but this track proves that sometimes you can peel back the theatricality to create more of an impact.



'Breaking Down' first caught my attention via Noisey, which describes the track's (relatively) understated appeal succintly: "It's hard to write a catchy pop song about paranoia and loneliness but Florence + the Machine manage just that on "Breaking Down." The official video, something of a nostalgic take on the tour diary format features a sentimental tone with a Super 8 feel, and is everybit as earnest."


Florence's sounds a bit more vocally reserved than usual, beginning the track with a description of a metaphor for the persona's mental illness:

"All aloneIt was always there you seeAnd even on my ownIt was always standing next to meI can see it coming from the edge of the roomCreeping in the streetlightHolding my hand in the pale gloomCan you see it coming now?"


The lyrics are dark and ominous, but there's a qualified lightness in Florence's vocal delivery that suggests that incidences of neurosis can be dealth with without panicking or 'breaking down' in an irreversibly catastrophic sense:

"Oh, I think I'm breaking down againOh, I think I'm breaking down"


A bridge towards the end of the song indicates that a coexistence of sorts - between the speaker and 'it' - has been maintained since the lyrical persona was young:

"All aloneEven when I was a childI've always knownThere was something to be frightened of"


But instead of being described as something demonic and alien to the self, 'the condition' is personified as 'My old familiar friend/ [who] Comes and lies down next to me'. In a telling alteration towards the last verse of the song, the speaker shifts to a direct address to 'it': 

"And I can see you coming from the edge of the roomSmiling in the streetlightEven with my eyes shut tightI still see you coming now"


The song ends with a repeat of the chorus, but the tone and overall message of the song is far from hopeless. The process of 'breaking down' happens (and will happen again), but the speaker demonstrates sheer resilience and the ability to adapt to the challenges of life when plagued by mental illness. Sanity can be lost, but also regained - a fitting and emphatic message to those coping with mental conditions of all sorts. You break down involuntarily, but you can also put yourself back together again. 


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