Mumford & Sons – Babel

Albums / Words

27 Oct 12



OMG MUMFORD & SONS ARE BACK and much mainstream music press are devoting time to lambasting the pop-culture bracket they inhabit, “Why does everyone hate Mumford & Sons?!” they scream; whilst overlooking any relevancies such as the music itself; and that it is, of course, these exact journalists themselves who propel such a culture of hate in
the ?rst place.

There is understandable reasoning for ?nding this second effort dull, even laughable at points; as strum-ridden crescendos soar like Eagles dangerously close to commercial jets.

This is never more blatant than in the shamelessly self-indulgent, PR-y single ?I Will Wait’ with it’s video featuring thousands of screaming fans in near-on sacrilegious formation, whooping and cheering as the band storm the stage: it’s a trashy, easy release that displays nothing other than the shedding of light unto the band’s relative complacency, illustrating the worst moments of this album.

‘Babel’ and ‘Hopeless Wanderer’ compliment ‘I Will Wait”s formulaic structure and feel. The latter, by all means, appears to have been orchestrated by a rhyme-obsessed fanatic with strum-related OCD.

There are points where this work sits upon sturdy ground, but the would-be-farmers in waistcoats never engage the plow: there is little progression, nor active response, to be found anywhere.

My disinterestedness was hampered, though, as a genuine artistic temperament steadies the scale with Babel‘s strengths: ‘Broken Crown’ and ‘Reminder’ are intelligently engaging and emotive as lustful and memorable lyrics gel with rich melodic structuring. These tracks harp back to the best of the band’s earliest work; which aided in the regeneration of the Folk scene today.

There was much industry buzz surrounding the delayed release of Babel, which was, no doubt, pushed out speedily to meet management demands, but this encourages another debate entirely.

Mumford & Sons’ response to Sigh No More neither whimpers nor excels with piles of radio-friendly folk interspersed with ripples of strength. At it’s best, this still breeds enthusiasm via teased, whimpering moments of musical sincerity.

Even the most visceral Mumford & Sons detractors wouldn’t have been able to avoid the news that their long-awaited new album, Babel, not only reached the Number 1 spots in the US and UK and became one of the fastest selling records of the year, but the NME are even reporting that Mumford have matched the Beatles for the number of consecutive songs to place in the US Billboard Hot 100.

But what is the new record actually like? The short answer: Nothing new.

That isn’t to say that Babel is a bad record, or even a dull one. Mumford have returned to the same toe-tapping, heart swelling crescendos of “Sigh No More” or “The Cave” for good reason – they are fantastic songs with the capacity to entrance and enthuse audiences in equal measure. The infectious exhilaration of tracks such as “Babel” and “Lover of the Light”, and galloping, twanging pace set by Winston Marshall’s frenetic banjo-strumming in “I Will Wait” and “Hopeless Wanderer” will be whipping audiences into a frenzy well into next year’s summer festival season at least.

Just as the quieter “Timshel” was my favourite track from Sigh No More, one of the immediate highlights from Babel is “Ghosts That We Knew”, which bubbles away brilliantly, never quite brimming over into a full-scale Mumford finale.

As much as I would like to wholly disagree with the Mumford naysayers who have labelled the band disingenuous poseurs and the new record a carbon-copy of Sigh No More, because it is similar in so many ways, Babel lacks the emotional authenticity and fresh appeal of their previous effort. That isn’t to say I won’t be listening to it often for months to come.

The waistcoat wearing folk boy band are back with a 2nd album that feels all too familiar.

Mumford and Sons clearly have bags of talent. They have had massive success with their own brand of folk-pop but the formula gets old fast.

‘Babel’ reeks of sweaty stadium filled sing-alongs, with its epic chorus’ and barn yard hoedowns constantly popping up track after track. While this is what has led to their current stardom, I do think Mumford have the creative ability to make something far more interesting.

Within the album the most obvious hit track is ‘I Will Wait’. It will have festival goers singing and jigging along like mindless doesy doeing cyborgs next summer. But it’s ‘Hopeless Wanderer’ which caught my ear. It showcases what Mumford can do so well, with its floating melodic harmonies and music which sometimes thunders along; sometimes gently hums. It shines out in an album which at time feels like its dragging.

However what sprung to my mind most when I was listening to this album was the Chuckle Brothers. They had success with their own formulaic brand of children’s television show. For me I remember thinking it was repetitive, irritating and at points nightmarish. However then they made their innovative game show ‘To Me To You’. It was a revelation. ‘Mumford And Sons’ need to find their ‘To Me To You’. Here’s hoping on the 3rd album.