Those who deride Mumford & Sons’ inauthenticity are missing the point. The west Londoners’ transformation into banjo-toting Dust Bowl refugees is the type of reinvention pop thrives on. A Brit award, a gig at the White House and over 1m album sales in both the UK and the US have showed it worked too. But the trick comes unstuck on the follow-up to their hit debut.
Each song in Babel cranks the banjos up until they’re racing along like souped-up jalopies, a gallop meant to express passion and expansiveness, but which reiterated again and again becomes merely routine. Meanwhile Marcus Mumford delivers orotund lyrics with whiskery earnestness, milking the bible and the rhyming dictionary (“I’m a cad but I’m not a fraud/I set out to serve the Lord”) and bellowing brow-furrowed nonsense as though in the throes of a remarkable epiphany: “Do not tell me all is fine/When I lose my head I lose my spine.” Time for another reinvention?
Mumford & Sons