fri 15/11/2019

CD: Mumford & Sons - Babel | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mumford & Sons - Babel

CD: Mumford & Sons - Babel

Second album by Brit-folk belters falls foul of the law of diminishing returns

'Babel': stadium folk, and none the better for it

There’s nothing much wrong with Mumford & Sons on paper. Personally, I couldn’t care less where they went to school. I choose to ignore the fact that their head boy – sorry, lead singer – looks like a Cameron clone auditioning for a part in All Creatures Great and Small. We might even forgive Marcus Mumford his outrageous good fortune in marrying Carey Mulligan. These are factors that, to paraphrase Malkovich-as-Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, lie entirely beyond their control. In any case, bands don’t make music on paper. Best to concentrate on the noise.

So that's what we do and this is what we discover: crikey, Babel is dull. Not bad so much as terminally careful. The freshness that helped their multi-million-selling 2009 debut Sigh No More rise above its innate conservatism was a one time only deal. Three years on, their frantically scratchy, tub-thumping folk - characterised on every damn song by niggling double-time banjo and Mumford's briny, try-too-hard rasp - has calcified into something terribly formulaic. You root around these 12 songs for some recognition that music can offer more than a phlegmy, over-signified approximation of earthy authenticity, but the search is entirely in vain. Babel is so catastrophically mistitled it could almost be a joke: rarely has an album felt so musically monolinguistic.

In such an arid landscape the smallest positives sparkle like mountain water. “Holland Road” has a certain sad, epic grandeur; “Ghosts That We Know” is hymnal and undeniably moving. Babel also gives added oomph to the Mumford's signature sound, but even that development proves a double-edged sword. Though they have certainly managed to harness more of the infectious energy of their live shows, the upshot is that these vigorous 21st-century shanties are constantly straining at the leash to be anthemic. “Lover of the Light” and "Hopeless Wanderer" are stadium folk, U2 in the hayloft, and none the better for it.

Lyrically, there is none of folk music's awkward desire to stir and agitate, or to speak as it finds. Instead, the poor-me poetry is as predictable as the shapes of the songs. It won't matter, of course. If you didn’t like Mumford & Sons before this album isn’t going to make a convert of you. Similarly, if you’re already a fan then Babel will be just what the (private) doctor ordered. Job done. And a job is what it feels like.

Watch the video for "I Will Wait"

'Babel' is so catastrophically mistitled it could almost be a joke: rarely has an album felt so musically monolinguistic

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Average: 2 (1 vote)

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Haha! A certain someone needs to remove a certain something from a certain part of his body. Poor poor review.

You sound like you have a personal problem with them!! The album is amazing!!! "Babel" isn't dull, your writing is! And really who cares what you say anyway! Your job requires no skill whatsoever! All you need to do is write an opinion! You take dull to a whole nother level Graeme Thomson!

Your wrong bro!! I hadn't heard of Mumford & Sons before this!! I was at the record store for another album release and heard them on the speakers! Asked the clerk who they were and bought Babel! Listened to it on the way home and LOVED it!!! Stopped by the store on the way home from work again to pick up Sigh No More! Didn't have it so I ordered it online! I am a convert as you would say! And I find bands like The Lumineers and Avett Brothers boring! Well The Lumineers just plain sucked! I noticed that Mumford & Sons second album took 3 years!! I just hope the next one doesn't take that long!

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