Although the music is not as distinguished as before, it is redeemed by the band's soulfulness. Sepia toned acoustic guitars are out and badass atomic ones are in.
Mumford and Sons snuck their way onto any reputable propaganda set list with their banjo toting brand of folksy rock. Wilder Mind, the band’s third album, makes a folk-less foray into rock music proper, abandoning the wheezy accordion in favour of soaring riffs and licks. The banjo is gone and the electricity is switched on. The flick of the switch is fairly smooth; the music is still a lovelorn grapple with melancholy, however it doesn’t soar like their previous efforts. The album lacks the punch and sing-along quality of 2009’s Sigh No More and 2012’s Babel, you won’t see revellers arm in arm swinging round and around, but we have moved on from the hoedown haven’t we?
The Sons all chip in harmoniously with vocals but Marcus Mumford sings lead and plays guitar, Ben Lovett on keyboard, Winston Marshall on guitar (formerly our banjo man) and Ted Dwane rocks the bass and all have plugged in. It’s always fascinating to watch music evolve; after carving out their neo-folk niche and creating a wave of country chic that swept the nation, Mumford and Sons’ evolution ushers in a new album of bittersweet anthems that still tug at the heart strings only with added reverb and distortion. There is a danger of stepping into the mopey Coldplay territory. All and sundry stomped their feet and screamed along to ‘Little Lion Man’ or ‘I Will Wait’, but the music of Wilder Mind simply doesn’t have the same effect, though to be fair it is a very different record. The frantic plucking of the double bass and banjos and the strum and shout along harmonies are as rock as anything. So too is the heart swelling arena sound of the early Mumfords, the switch to atomic is perhaps a plausible one.
The transformation is immediately apparent with the textured and distorted solo that opens the first track ‘Tompkins Park Square’. The first single from the album, titled ‘Believe’, was released back on 9th March . The synth aside, it wouldn’t look out of place amongst their earlier work. Then all of a sudden, just before the two minute mark is the twang of an atomic guitar and even some bloody reverb! Can you believe it? A full on drum set kicks in, a high hat, snare and all, so long for Mumfords’ trusty single kick drum. You see the same ploy in ‘Only Love’ about half way through. ‘Wolf’ was released 9th April and starts with some rousing guitar akin to The Strokes’ raucous garage rock. Order is soon restored as the rest of the album falls back on the softer side of rock and their trademark sound of Mr. Mumford singing on top of layered sounds thanks to his dexterous pals. The songs can be amorphous at times particularly with ‘Monster’ and ‘Cold Arms’. Although the music is not as distinguished as before and does join an unfortunate chart pop genre, it is redeemed by the band’s soulfulness seeping through. Sepia toned acoustic guitars are out and more badass atomic ones are in.
Wilder Mind was released 4th May 2015 on Island Records