Review Summary: I Will Wait for the next one.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
I'll admit I was optimistic to say the least for the arrival of Mumford and Sons' latest LP Babel
, being a fan of their ale-soaked brand of folk rock. Their debut, Sigh No More
was impressive but somewhat monotonous, albeit a great achievement. To see a band playing this style of music achieve the popularity that Mumford did is still somewhat staggering, and, I'll admit, not exactly warranted. Sure, the band is fresh and exciting, executing such anthemic cuts as "The Cave" and "Little Lion Man" with a catchy pop flair that has yet to be accomplished by another act. However, the act's strongest cuts have always been of the low-key, searching variety - take "Winter Winds" (a bit of a stretch - but the horn solo makes it) or "I Gave You All", songs on which the band reach an emotional depth unheard of by any of their contemporaries (that is, if they even have any).
Unfortunately, the band seems to disagree. Babel
begins on a strong note with the title track opener - a savage maelstrom of acoustic guitars that simply explodes towards the end in some sort of folk version of a breakdown. Unfortunately, the band follows up with 3 more tracks of exactly the same variety - including the extraordinarily boring lead single "I Will Wait". The relentless barrage of rolling acoustic savagery makes "Ghosts That We Knew" particularly effective as a respite, but alas, the band simply rears its head and plunges headlong into another set of tunes that begin deceptively calm before building up into the same exact song you've now heard 5 times. The loud-quiet dynamic play worked for Led Zeppelin, but that's because there was actual black and white, not an endless sea of grey fist-pumping folk anthems. The unfortunately two-minute-long "Reminder" that follows is the album's strongest moment, where Marcus Mumford attempts to be Nick Drake and nearly succeeds, hindered only by his seemingly perpetual roughness.
The following track, "Hopeless Wanderer" is where the band actually succeeds at their apparently stock-in-trade. Featuring (Electric!) guitar and a structure almost reminiscent of prog-rock, the song is Mumford at their best. "Broken Crown" is similarly powerful and unnervingly dark, but unfortunately by this point (nearly 40 minutes in), I've simply had enough.
Therein lies the problem with Babel
. It isn't a BAD album. The problem is that the novelty has worn off. On Sigh No More
this level of monotony was acceptable, Mumford still had their niche and certain bouts of imperfection can be ignored on a debut. Not on a sophomore. With a bit of the fat trimmed, there's no doubt Mumford has a good album here, but as it is, it suffers the same affliction that its lead single did.