There are bands who can release a string of albums, each more different sounding than the last but equally brilliant. And there are Mumford and Sons. Being the figureheads of the latest nu-folk movement may hold its perks, but there’s also the issue of being unable to get away from that signature sound. So it comes as no surprise that the London quartet’s latest offering is an obvious continuation from their 2009 debut. “Babel” is as unashamedly folky as its predecessor, which is a good thing, if you like Mumford and Sons. If you were hoping for some sort of career-progression, or something a little different, this isn’t the record for you.
Long-awaited as the album may have been, it now faces the issue of living up to the hype that Mumford and Sons seem to attract so well. For fans, it’s perfect. For critics, it’s an easy target. The tracks fall into two rather predictable categories – the rousing, fast-paced, numbers that would be at home in some Gaelic barn party, and the slow-build folk ballads. All sound pretty similar to one another, as even the slow-builds turn quickly into ho-down efforts. And all seem to mention either love or pain or both. How very original.
Title track “Babel” and new single “I Will Wait” are the obvious stand outs for Mumford fans, perfect for any number of TV adverts and guaranteed to lift spirits. Meanwhile “Whispers in the Dark” and “Hopeless Wanderer” both try a little too hard to start off delicately but change quickly into an orgy of crazy-paced strings and thumpingfolk-style bass. The word typical seems to come to mind through much of this album, but tracks like the beautiful “Holland Road” and the slightly sinister use of piano keys on “Broken Crown” help to provide a few game-changing moments, albeit it not enough of them.
That being said the band are very good at what they do, and have even come out and said that they “wanted to do something unashamed”. If unashamedly samey was their aim, then they’re doing pretty well.
Words : Rosanna Pound-Woods