Mumford & Sons return with highly anticipated sophomore release
Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012
Updated: Saturday, September 29, 2012 23:09
The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Mumford and Sons, the burgeoning force behind the folk rock revival, created the winning formula of folk instrumentation, passionate lyrics and rock aggression on their debut album “Sigh No More” and in the process sold 2.5 million copies.
“Babel,” their highly anticipated sophomore album released Sept. 25, is the logical sequel and takes off where “Sigh No More” left off. But where “Sigh No More” was bombastically intimate, “Babel” is just plain bombastic.
Even if Mumford and Sons had not road-tested most of the material last year, there would be no question that this album is stadium-ready. Producer Markus Dravs, who also produced “Sigh No More” as well as albums for Coldplay and Arcade Fire, returns on “Babel” and the influences of these other rock acts are extremely apparent.
The opening title track “Babel” is an aggressive and loud foot-stomper riddled with biblical allusions that can easily get the largest stadium crowds on their feet.
The single “I Will Wait” is an equally moving and powerful sing-a-long, but feels over-produced and polished and “too perfect.” The passion and the lyricism, which stood out on “Sigh No More,” are at times muddled under the loudness of the instrumentation and the multitude of sing-along choruses. The exceptions are “Hopeless Wanderer” and “Below My Feet,” two of the better songs on the album.
Where Mumford and Sons has always excelled are their more reflective and stripped-down songs; it would have been nicer to see more of those types of songs on “Babel.”
“The Ghosts That We Knew” is the definite stand out as is “Broken Crown,” which is one of the darkest songs on the album. “Reminder,” the most stripped-down song on the album, is a hauntingly beautiful ode to lost love and easily the best song on the album, but also the shortest. Unfortunately, “Where Are You Now” is only available on the deluxe edition, but alone it is worth the extra cost.
Mumford and Sons need to realize that their strength lies in their beautiful harmonies and stripped-down acoustic instrumentation, rather than sing-along choruses and loud folk rock guitars. Hopefully for their next album they will realize this, and go back to the basics where they belong.