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.
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.