Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind

By | May 5, 2015

mumford-sons-wilder-mind

I should preface this review by saying that it was completed after no more than two complete listens to the album.  Songs are listened to in their entirety and in the order the band intended.  A special thanks to Slacker Radio for letting me stream this for free as their Album of the Week.  My opinions are likely to change with more spins.  As for now, this is my Release Day Double Play Review of Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind.

Of course, I wanted to like this album.  Why wouldn’t I?  I loved Sign No More.  Like many, I was turned on to the band by “Little Lion Man” but could tell quickly there was something more to the boys from Britain.  The album was deep, driving and forceful – the way my favorite albums are.

I loved Babel when it was released three years after Sign No More.  Again, the music was powerful and visceral without being angry.  Well … maybe a bit angry but so good.  It was energetic and able to create a sense of movement.  It wasn’t as deep and re-playable as Sign No More but stellar for a sophomore release.

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The Gents were able to avoid the sophomore slump, but instead they landed into a jolting junior year.  Jolting because the raw, real crescendos of the previous releases gave way to heady, overthought ballads that drip with sensitivity.  It seems that Marcus traded in his heart for his brain.  The lyrical content was more cerebral; less guttural.  The music followed suit.

Gone are the restless guitars and bass drum pops building until you couldn’t help but move your feet or pump your fist into the air.  Replaced with too much snare and tom that leaves me feeling empty.  The biggest culprit for my poor response to this album might surprise you.  It surprised me, too.  It’s the electric guitar.

I was shocked and concerned when I saw the boys perform on SNL with electric 6-strings.  I worried that they were losing their way.  It seems now my fears were justified.

I get why a band would make the move.  Rolling Stone has a great piece about it here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/mumford-sons-talk-going-electric-on-new-album-wilder-mind-20150302 I get it.  I love going electric more than anyone as long as it is an addition.  In this case, it is a subtraction.

I think that when bands move from an “acousticentric” view and begin working more electric into their recordings, they can err by keeping it too soft.  The power of the guitar can frighten some.  I’m not trying to imply that M&S didn’t know what they were doing, but what I am saying is that adding the electric guitar took the punch, power and pop out of this album.  It is the musical equivalent to someone that decided that he didn’t need to work out at the gym anymore because he bought a gun.  Out running someone or a punch in the face are more valuable than emptying a clip.  The rapid fire acoustic strumming of “Hopeless Wanderer” had more drive than any guitar work on Wilder Mind.  They played it too safe.  They didn’t go far enough.

Even when the lyrics convey more emotionality, the instrumentation was unable to match the same level.  Because of this disconnection, I found myself being bored by this album on multiple occasions.  I kept waiting for the track that was going to blow me away.  Here I sat with little more than a breeze to move me.

Hopefully, a few more listens will shift the Jetstream but until then …

Consume.Review.Repeat. gives Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons 3.5 white blank pages out of 10.

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One thought on “Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind

  1. mrbaseballnerd Post author

    Love the break-down. I very much agree with your interpretation of their weakened “power strumming.” But we do see glimpses of that in for sure
    1.) the end of Tompkins Square Park
    2.) the end of Believe
    3.) the entire The Wolf (mainly pre-chorus/chorus)
    4.) the end of Snake Eyes
    5.) mostly the end of Broad-Shoulder Beasts
    6.) the entire Ditmas (mainly pre-chorus)
    7.) the end of Only Love

    So 7 of 12 tracks I can safely say show it. My personal favorites, The Wolf and Ditmas, show us that classic upbeat nutso strumming that we always will love in their Chorus(s) (F.E. Whispers in the Dark, Holland Road, Hopeless Wanderer, Sigh No More, Little Lion Man, and White Blank Page) , along with Marcus’s melodious voice, creates a devastatingly awesome combo of upbeat Rock with an eternally savvy voice.

    The thing is, I think they were following “The Cave” formula for most of the album, albeit a few gems in this album. You know, the one where the beginnings of songs are nice and easy, a nice stroll along the beach, then you have your kick-butt chorus, formally with the burst of banjos. But this album their, obviously, using electric guitar. Snake Eyes and Cold Arms are banjo songs, if you haven’t noticed – You can’t play music like that with an electric guitar. Because they’ve been playing this Indie/Rock for the past 8 years, all they’ve known is how to play with those kind of instruments. It’ll take some time, but they will soon realize that A.) This is not our style of music or B.) We need to adapt to to Rock without the slow and easy Alternative stuff (For crying out loud, this album is under the Alternative genre!) To be successful, they will either will switch back need loud, guitar smacking songs like Ditmas and The Wolf on their next album, or go back to the Folky formula of old. And if they continue on without changing their musical approach, their albums will be exactly like this. A couple of decent songs. Dat’s about it.
    But I’ll be the one to say, I’ll be with them till the end. And I hope you will be to.

    Reply

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