OK, it’s been a long time since I’ve written a review so bear with me please.
So Mumford and Sons about a year ago was simply that band with that song with that bad word repeatedly, eh? I liked the song. Everyone liked the song. We love songs with the f word. Ok, not everyone loves that song, but it’s one of those that people respond to because the raw emotion oozes out of every chord.
And Babel as an album is nothing if it’s not raw emotion. There is this entire journey throughout the album with mini-journeys in each song, day trips if you will. It’s one of those albums that have something for pretty much everyone who has ever actually had an emotion in their life and can tap into that very moment when they felt it last. The great appeal, as I see it, in M&S is their ability to punch into your heart with their lyrics and make it seem, to every listener, that he could have written that line. It’s like Shakespeare. I mean if anyone actually talked like that.
Musically, Mumford and Sons is the strongest testament to the great rise of bluegrass or newgrass as the kids call it. Or maybe Rolling Stone called it that first, who knows. The driving, earthy stringfest of bluegrass influenced pop has been making its comeback for some time now, and the fact that we can refer to it as earthy somehow means it’s intrinsic to our natures, like the fifth element – earth, wind, fire, air, and stringed instruments. There is mass appeal in bluegrass rhythms – God’s rhythms obviously. I mean on the 1 and 3. But in all seriousness, the popularity of new folk and acoustic music has been heralded as this great retro revival that can be heard on college campuses everywhere. The kids are picking up all manner of stringed instruments and that is never a bad thing for music.
That said, there is some heavy repetition in bluegrass styles and it comes through a lot on a straight ahead listen of Babel. There are melody motifs that pop up often in several songs and similar phrasing styles throughout the album. In a way, this works well for their lyrics in that you almost feel like you know the song already, just with different words. And perhaps this makes us pay closer attention to the words like when you know a hymn melody in church but the words seem odd somehow. This is always a good thing, especially when the lyrics are actually worthwhile, giving you something to sink your teeth into.
Overall, I am very enthusiastic about the album, though not as enthusiastic as some people I know. It’s a solid sophomore effort and the back stories of all that is going on for Marcus Mumford, between his breakup and recent marriage and his religious background, adds to the interest in his lyric choices. He’s a man that has felt the pain and agony of life and found a poetic release to the benefit of many who could never get that exact moment on paper like he has. Because even if you don’t write songs, their music makes you feel like you just did.