By Jess Natale
Bands come and bands go – it’s the sticking around that’s the most difficult hurdle for a musician to approach. When Mumford & Sons came to limelight on the music scene in 2009, they brought with them a distinctive sound that relied heavily on the banjo and kickdrum. Although their sound was borderline Bluegrass, mainstream music listeners latched on for dear life – mainly because Mumford & Sons brought hope to an otherwise bleak world overflowing with the likes of Lady GaGa, Rihanna, and Beyonce. (Make no mistake though; there is no dig to be made at any of the aforementioned artists, they were simply just suffocating fans of real, raw music with their deafening autotuning and lipsyncing.) Marcus Mumford introduced what I’ve always referred to as “the Mumford drop” – you know that thing when the bass drops in House Music and then everything goes wild? Mumford & Sons had that in the form of Marcus Mumford singing a’capella, very gently, followed by a massive band break, full of heavy acoustic guitars, piano, and a drum kit. Their shtick made them exceptional – it also made for a very eccentric fanbase. I attended a concert of theirs back in 2013 in Austin, Texas – the crowd was made up of young, old, and some new-aged lovers of their genuine sound. Now, however, the band has decided to take a page from Coldplay – a page that seems almost eerily too much like Coldplay’s sound. No longer are we marveled by the glorious banjos or the chilling clout behind Marcus Mumford’s vocals… we are now living in a world wherein the most unique mainstream band have decided to cave beneath the pressure of its competitors.
I can’t truthfully say that my heart was wholly prepared to listen to Mumford & Sons’ new song, “Believe”. I had spent the better portion of the last two years keenly awaiting news of a comeback from my favorite band – helping in the process was Marcus Mumford flying solo and joining The New Basement Tapes, a move that distinguished him as a proper player in the music sphere. The anticipation built as hints were dropped on the band’s Facebook page; first came a dark-lit photo of the quartet donning leather jackets and chopped hair, then a snippet video of their new sound. It was difficult to determine just how much their sound had changed based solely on this twenty second clip – I had my reservations, though. I knew that the lack of banjo would mean that something would be off, that fans that followed them since the beginning would be complaining in no time… and I was right. One week after their nip of a preview, “Believe” was released in all of its radio-friendly glory.
To say that “Little Lion Man” and “I Will Wait” weren’t, at one point, blaring through the speakers at radio stations across the U.S. would be a lie. But, to say that you immediately didn’t know who the band was upon first hearing these songs would also be a lie. Mumford & Sons were able to defy the odds set against them and become a massive success because they were so true to their sound. As previously stated, these four men took the power from Beyonce, Katy Perry, Rihanna and so many others who were reigning over the music industry… something that no one assumed would be possible. Instead of the radio focusing on the same, repetitive sound over and over again, they threw Mumford & Sons into the mix and an entirely new world opened up for folk-pop-rock or however one would classify the band. I would definitely hand it to Mumford & Sons as being the force behind the swing when it came to fellow musicians such as Fleet Foxes, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Imagine Dragons being able to achieve their respective levels of fame. So, why would a band that was so respected in the industry pull the carpet from beneath their fans and jump ship to a completely different sound?
It’s difficult to make assumptions as to what Wilder Mind will sound like as a whole, but if “Believe” is any indication of what to expect, I don’t think that the album will hold up to any warped, pre-release praises. Marcus Mumford has been making the rounds, assuring fans via various media outlets that the music will be “great” – an assurance that seems a bit dithering as it’s accompanied by a wave of indifferent feedback from “lifelong” fans. “Wilder Mind” will be released on May 4th in the States and, if it’s any consolation, Marcus, I think it’s safe to say that your real fans will be waiting on the sidelines as you act out your musical mid-life crisis.
Jess Natale’s personal portfolio can be found at:jessicanataleportfolio.blogspot.com