Who would have thought a folk rock/bluegrass band from London, United Kingdom could have taken on the North American market with a tour du force in such a small time frame; many strive for decades to make the impact that Mumford & Sons have done in two albums and five years. The band were an unknown quantity until their ground breaking album Sigh No More released in 2009, and they have enjoyed a quick rise in success touring on the LP for almost three years. They break with the ten track mantra in which currently plagues the record industry, by providing a fifteen track (Deluxe and Vinyl versions feature additional songs) emotional journey which touches all the senses.
When you think of Babel, you get the feeling of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’ they don’t deviate in sound but it is their lyrics are what win you over. Bewilderment of love, lust and the subtle hints of God are themes seen throughout the record.
Mumford & Sons are earthy in their approach, always in touch with reality, never accepting the status quo, and always pushing their audience to yearn for love and push away the sadness. Their music is soul moving and soul searching with an eerie ambiance of a religious sermon. The fifth track from Babel, ‘Ghosts that we knew’ describes the band well, “So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light,” the band lives to explore the shadows, and always leaving their audiences anticipating to see that perspective light at the end of the ‘tunnel.’ They never shy from tackling love, and give the listener a good story like only folk and bluegrass can provide.
The band from London, have fought their way to the top, starting probably in a Duke of something–kind of pub, success has not gotten them out of touch with who they are and where they came from. If prolific strumming mixed with a jam like stomping is your kind of time; Babel is an album for you. This album appeals to all what Mumford & Sons fans already know and love, a folky time with a groovy beat and a masterful lyric base. Their fans will appreciate Marcus Mumford’s (vocals, guitar, drums, and mandolin) new batch of tunes on this record. Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboards, accordion, drums), “Country” Winston Marshall (vocals, banjo, dobro, guitar), and Ted Dwane (vocals, string bass, drums, guitar) have all added a masterful sound to Marcus’ powerhouse gruff voice, giving the album a structured feel while having the appeal of being light-hearted. This technique is commonly seen in punk albums, having deep dark and reveling lyrics linked to up-tempo power house music.
The band have followed up Sigh No More in the way many would of thought, keeping a similar sound, keeping a lyrical edge, and providing their base with possibly some worrying questions. Will the band change sounds? Are they a ‘one trick pony’? Has the band boxed their sound into one corner musically? These are all legitimate questions in which paying audiences have the right to ask; now there are probably two camps in the Mumford & Sons fan base the top forty radio folks who will enjoy the title track Babel for it gives a much more mainstream sound. Songs like Babel will continue to grow their base, find new fans and keep most others neither pleased nor dissatisfied. The other camp firmly comprises of the most diehard fans, the folks who enjoyed the B-Sides, the traditional folk sound, and the elements of hardship coupled with a down-to-earth sound. Both have their commonalities in that the music touches them on personal level, however both will get different things out it. Canadian folk icon Gordon Lightfoot believes, “You just get the vibes of your surroundings and it rubs off on you.” Your surroundings when you listen to Mumford & Sons give you the feeling of having a good pint, and singing a good tune, they simply make you at home.
The album is much more than music and lyrics it takes you on a journey of pain, joy, self-reflection, and all variations of love. It’s the title track Babel which establishes the roots of the LP, Marcus bellows “Cos I’ll know my weakness –know my voice –And I’ll know perhaps my heart is last –But I’ll be brave without a mask.” The lyrics place an importance on self-awareness; on achieving fame, on achieving success and the realization that even with success it is possible to stay true to your sound, your voice, and leave the proverbial masks for others to wear. Overall Babel is worth the buy and frankly nothing less the deluxe edition will do it. For it contains hidden gems like; For Those Below, Where Are You Now, and Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer all of which are not ones to miss. These songs add to the already fighting amount of “musical genius,” some songs to look for are: Whispers in the Dark, Ghosts That We Knew, Lovers’ Eyes, and Not with Haste. Is it disappointing to have the band give a theme, and music similar to Sigh no More? The answer quite simply is no, the music makes you feel like it’s an old friend stopping in – saying Hi or Hello –a welcomed part to the day. For critics some will say that the album could have or should have done more in the way of change of direction and sound. One would say Mumford & Sons will press on, providing a sound that is overall commonly refreshing to the current trends in music. Babel is natural in sound and approach and will leave audiences wanting more, Marcus and the lads will persist and they will keep fighting the good fight.
Written by Dan Lovell
OurVinyl | Contributor