Mumford & Sons rise to prominence has never ceased to amaze me. It stems from when I first saw the group perform live at the 2010 Sasquatch Music Festival. Few people knew them and they played on one of the smaller bullsh*t stages. They had 66th billing on the concert poster, which means they were even lower than The Lonely Forest. For some perspective, in 2006 my former band The Defenestrators played with The Lonely Forest. By 2013, not only were Mumford & Sons headlining Sasquatch, their second album had won a Grammy for Album of the Year. All of this through the power of folk. A power so strong it even spawned folk knock offs like the Lumineers and Phillip Phillips, but there was only one Mumford.
What do you do once you’ve established yourself with a unique sound, won awards and inspired others? Throw it all away? This is what Mumford & Sons decided to do. I mean, I get it. Artists live to experiment and create. What I don’t understand is why Mumford & Sons chose the least innovative kind of music to experiment with. It’s almost as if this whole thing was a marketing move more than anything. Like, if they went into their next album with a gimmick people would be more inclined to buy it. Which people did, but did anyone really enjoy Wilder Mind? Not really.
Before Wilder Mind, Mumford & Sons was a rootsy quartet with a guy on upright bass, a guy on banjo, a guy on piano and a chubby guy who could sing well, play guitar, and sometimes play drums. Now I don’t know what anyone in the band does. I know how stupid that sounds, but think about it. With everyone chugging away on guitars, you don’t really appreciate the guys not named Mumford anymore. Everyone kind of sinks into the background as everything becomes the Marcus Mumford show. There’s no individuality. They even cut back on backup vocals. So now Marcus Mumford does all the singing, plays guitar, and is also the drummer. Those other guys might as well be off somewhere drinking a pint and watching marathons of Blackadder. Whatever British people do in their spare time.
The songs are a blur. I remember “Tompkins Square Park” simply because it opens the album and “Believe” because it’s the single. Which is bullsh*t because you can’t even sing along with it. They didn’t even whip out the tasty licks. Why go electric if you’re not going to rock? Remember when Bob Dylan went electric? It was so he could f*ckin’ rock! Not so he could sit down and whine about missing his sweetheart.
Okay, I’m not being entirely fair. “The Wolf” kind of rocks. It’s not Queens of the Stone Age or anything, but it’s at least at a Kings of Leon-level of rock (their more recent stuff not their older better stuff). None of the songs are bad per se. The problem is Mumford & Sons are wasting their potential. They have or had something unique. Nobody would care if they did this five albums down the road, but on their third? How often do they now have to switch back and forth between electric and acoustic instruments at their shows? What a pain in the ass for the audience. I have never considered myself a fan of Mumford & Sons, but I always admired how they reintroduced folk to a new generation. Now they don’t even have that. 🙁
I guess the question is: “Do they stay electric or go back to acoustic?” Hard to say. Will they go back to the light, or further towards the dark side? Only time will tell. May god had mercy on us all. Happy Holidays!