Mumford’s new sound fails to electrify

The British folk-troubadours have traded their acoustic instruments for electric ones, and the result is not pretty.

Tyler Davis, Writer

When Bob Dylan swapped out his beat up acoustic guitar for a Fender Stratocaster at Newport Folk Festival 1965, dedicated fans of the folk revival were furious. Mumford & Sons stood at the cusp of a similar folk revival in the mid 2000’s with their record “Sigh No More.” They were just one of a group of folk artists from London such as Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn, Noah & The Whale and others. While many indie acts such as MGMT and Phoenix were picking up synthesizers, they vied for banjos. And now, like Dylan before them, they have committed the cardinal sin of folk music, they have gone electric on their third record “Wilder Mind.”

The Downfall of Mumford

Mumford’s debut, “Sigh No More,” was a beautifully powerful record that dripped with earnestness and emotional authenticity. The band exploded, and folk overtook the mainstream. Bands such as The Lumineers and The Head and the Heart began finding similar success, though none of them hit quite the same level as Marcus Mumford and company. In 2012, Mumford & Sons released their sophomore record “Babel” which contained many of the same elements as their debut, but seemed to lose the emotional edge and fall into some of the cliches their followers pioneered. It fell a bit flat.

“Wilder Mind” sounds like a completely different band. Sure, Marcus Mumford’s signature voice is still in play, but completely gone are any traces of Americana. Instead there are driving electric guitars and loud drums. They harken back to the oh-so-tired influence of U2 with stadium-ready, wall-of-sound, instantly forgettable tracks that sound like a second-rate Coldplay. Songs like “Tompkins Square Park” and the first single “Believe” would fit right in amidst the flood of the bands who came out soon after the release of “A Rush Of Blood To The Head.”

Loss of Emotion to Over-production

One of my favorite elements Mumford brought to the table on their early work was raw emotion. This is nowhere to be found on “Wilder Mind.” It is all lost in the sea of gutless and over-produced music that can be considered rock insofar as they use guitars and bass and drums. The one palatable track is also the simplest on the album. “Cold Arms” features only Marcus Mumford and a clean electric guitar. This song begins to break back into the heart of the band that everyone fell in love with, if only for a moment. While Dylan’s electric driven songs had bite and grit, the same cannot be said for Mumford & Sons.

Capable of More

Mumford & Sons no-doubt have talent. We have seen it before. They are capable of making music far better than that found on “Wilder Mind.” Perhaps they simply spent too much time in stadiums and arenas. Maybe they need to get back to their small studio space on a rainy corner of London, pick up those dusty old instruments and play their hearts out.

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