When it comes to Mumford and Sons it’s pretty much a universal given that a large majority of people love them. But there is a grind with them. They are sort of atypical now, a sort of stereotype that everyone is familiar with and frankly, a sound that everyone could have been a bit bored of by now. Wilder Mind, the band’s third studio album after a brief hiatus, was always going to be a test of sorts; whether they could adapt and evolve into a new sound or revert back to customary sound.
First things first, and you’ve probably heard by now, there aren’t any banjos. Whether you like it or not, the instrument doesn’t make an appearance on the album and it’s probably something to be glad about. If they’d gone ahead and used it again, it will probably have become stale and repetitive. Even with their second album it felt like a bit tiring, the sound, looking back now, felt like a mere extension or tag-on piece to their first album.
However, you’d think that one of the instruments that was vital to their signature sound would be a leave a difficult-to-fill hole. Thankfully, their guitar-work is nothing short of a small savior for the album. The guitar is resonant and almost meaningful, it is almost completely foregrounded in the miasma of the other instruments. They weren’t afraid to use this instrument in the exact space that the banjo used to occupy.
Upon first hearing the album there is an almost remarkable similarity to the instrumental work of the later Kings of Leon, the guitar work is actively creates a tone. Of particular note here is their more solemn tracks such as ‘Hot Gates’ and ‘Snakes Eyes’ (and yes ‘Hot Gates’ is definitely a weird name for a song). These are probably some of the favourites to fans of Mumford and Sons’s more slow-paced tracks, the bends and drawn out notes, ring out and carefully pace the song.
Yet at the same time, the tracks that really have some energy are undoubtedly the best. The likes ‘Tompkins Square Park’ and ‘The Wolf’ can send shivers down one’s spine while have a fervent dynamic to them that, like their earlier works, you can easily picture yourself singing along to at a festival.
The biggest bug that comes with this album though is undoubtedly the fact that it’s still riddled with the classic ‘Mumford Climax’, which is a term that describes Mumford’s predilection to use a whole track in a constant work-up and then exploding with Marcus Mumford’s lyrical force that some would argue just falls into screaming more than anything. This is why their slower tracks are usually favoured because it doesn’t give him the tempo or madness to rouse up to, what can be, rather incoherent shouting instead of the brilliant, soulful tones that Mumford is actually capable of.
To treat myself during my dissertation woes I did decide to buy the deluxe version of the album and the extras are a bit strange. You see, the extras are mainly composed of several live versions of tracks on the album. And while you can quite hear some extra energy and composure in the tracks, it’s difficult to tell a major difference from the studio versions. But at this point it’s hard to say whether this is a good or bad thing. Who can fault a band that don’t sound remarkably different from their recorded and live work? They deserve recognition for that alone.
To be honest, it’s probably hard to see this album performing badly. Mumford and Sons have a hypnotic control over a large part of the British audience and it will be hard for them to fuck this up. And even if getting rid of the banjos, which is a remarkably small change, doesn’t actually change the composure of their songs that much, you know that the classic structure and slight variation in sound will still rake in audiences like Mumford and Sons usually do.