Review: Mumford & Sons – Babel
Published on October 4th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Mumford & Sons are, at least to Rocksucker’s ears, We Are Augustines minus the invention, range and authenticity. So, guess which band is about a gazillion times more popular than the other: yep, you guessed it. Nice one, world.
If Babel had anything to do with former Liverpool forward Ryan then Rocksucker might have been prepared to cut it some novelty-based slack. As it is, Mumford & Sons sound on this sophomore effort every bit as irritatingly flimsy as they did the first time round. We’re not ashamed to admit that we judged the book by its cover as soon as we saw their tweed outfits and pencil moustaches, but then we heard that ubiquitous single – you know, the one that managed to shoehorn a bad swear into its chorus and still sound as wet as an otter’s pocket – and realised that it was a pretty lousy book too.
Here at Rocksucker we like to challenge our preconceptions, we really do, but the only good thing we could find to say about Babel is that it’s competently pieced together. What a facade, though; I mean, they might be a mildly diverting proposition at some hipster warehouse party, but how in the name of Holy Mother Music has this soppy, repetitive drivel gone stratospheric?
Here’s the formula for every damn song on Babel: steady, up-tempo pulse + fast-plucked banjo + relentlessly tonal folk stylings + ‘sensitive’ lyrics, lightly growled = identikit displays of ‘triumphant’ emotion that are not only dull but also difficult to take at face value given the degree of artifice surrounding it all. They filled the barrel with fish on 2009 debut Sigh No More, and now they’re filling it full of lead.
There are two exceptions to the infuriating uniformity: “Ghosts That We Knew” represents a welcome change of pace, if only for the fact that is is a change of pace, ie. slower and more considered; and “Broken Crown”, which at least casts a spot of minor-key doominess over the same old pulse and eternal banjo.
For what it’s worth, bonus track “For Those Below” is far better than anything on the album proper. Maybe these chaps do have something about them after all; but if that is the case then they presumably sought on Babel to recreate “Little Lion Man” as many times as possible, which would be downright reprehensible.
Rocksucker says: One Quail out of Five!
Babel is out now on Gentlemen of the Road/Island. For more information, please visit www.mumfordandsons.com