The West-London quartet Mumford and Sons seems to have transcended a hundred years of music history during their short 18-month hiatus, dropping their waistcoats and banjos and just as quickly acquiring electric guitars, drums and bass. They have the sound of a band that has been perfecting their style for years, like Kings of Leon for example, when in fact their whole appeal and image has been turned on its head. The familiar sound of Marcus Mumford’s natural gritty voice is still instantly recognisable but what’s going on in the background is alien to old-school Mumford fans. Is this the new direction for the band or is it just a phase?
Reinventing yourself as an artist or band is never smooth, even trying to maintain consistency in output can lead to boredom in the most loyal fans, and radically altering your sound or style can leave previous admirers feeling left out in the cold. But Mumford had it so easy, they found, nay they invented a niche for popular folk-inspired music in the growing folk music scene in London. Fans flocked to this new form of accessible but catchy traditional music and the band launched to fame reaching their peak with the release of Grammy Award-winning albums ‘Sigh No More’ and ‘Babel’ followed by worldwide tours. However being a band with such a knack for creativity and exploring new avenues, they were always looking for novel ways to express themselves, at one point even admitting that they wanted to try rap! They had a desire to leave behind the shackles of their two successful “Brother albums” and introduce a “Cousin” with a more distinctive character.
The initial response to the release of their latest project ‘Wilder Mind’ earlier this year has been mainly positive with followers both old and new lapping up the fresh output. Many have praised the album as a sign of the band’s innovation and growth, and despite the louder brasher instrumental backdrop of the album, Marcus tends not to strain his voice and growl as much as he did in their previous albums. It suggests a more refined sense of song-writing without becoming quiet and pensive for the sake of it. However what the album appears to lack is a belter of an anthem that fans can shout and scream along to.
In a way it makes me wonder if Mumford’s style was only ever skin-deep, that their image of being rooted in a long heritage and connection with the land and all things rustic was merely a marketing strategy. It leads me to believe that the new turn that they’ve taken could be just as superficial. I’m interested to see when they play live, if they have to doff their leather jackets and drop their electric guitars, and quickly change into flannel and pick up their accordions to play their previous classics like ‘Little Lion Man’ and ‘Roll Away Your Stone’. It is up to each person to decide whether they prefer the new contemporary Mumford or decide to cling on to the golden era of the hay-tossing, foot-stomping revolution.
Mumford and Sons will play the 3Arena on the 2nd and 3rd of December, their album ‘Wilder Minds’ is available on iTunes and in stores.