‘Babel’ meanders; is a dull listen
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 23:09
Mumford and Sons, to say the least, is an inviting rock band. Their class of folk never tries to offend the listener. They never allure you with the celestial vocal harmonies and hallucinatory guitar swirls found on Fleet Foxes’ brand of folk or the lush autumn solitude encapsulated by The Tallest Man on Earth’s rustic acoustic guitar picking or the fervent yelp of Kristian Matsson. These artists evoke the mysticism of folk that once resonated with the baby-boomer generation, evoking a freedom of artistic expression glowing from unadulterated passion, without any pretentiousness in sight.
Mumford and Sons folk rock is very much the sound of the new millennium, offering crisp production on songs that are polished, written for millions but not for a specific generation in particular.
“Babel” follows the same formula as their 2009 debut “Sigh No More”, and for good reason. You probably know the story, but for those who have lived under a rock that shakes from dubstep drops or the gritty bass lines of moombahton, there is still popular rock music out there. “Sigh No More” was a smash hit. It found Marcus Mumford and his London counterparts delving into frenetic acoustic guitar lines filled with catchy harmonies such as with the ubiquitous “Little Lion Man,” and the distinct banjo plucking and huge choruses of anthems (“Sigh No More” and “The Cave.”) The soft-to-quiet build ups were used so often throughout the album, it has become a staple of Mumford and Sons’ sound. Honestly, there really isn’t much that differentiates the two albums, although “Babel” is a more passionate affair. If you liked “Sigh No More,” chances are that you’ll dive into “Babel.”
“Babel” is an impressive listen when Mumford and Sons go for the jugular. The passionate first single “I Will Wait” evolves into a second chorus where the title is belted at the top of the band’s lungs for a truly dramatic affair. The opening sans of the album, the titular “Babel,” finds Winston Marshal’s virtuosic banjo playing take center stage to build the verses to epic proportions.
The center of the album finds Mumford as his most sentimental, “so love the one you hold, and I’ll be your ghost to have and to hold, a love of the light.” (“Lover of the Light.”) Songs like “Lovers Eyes” and “Ghosts that We Knew” are too caught up in their own dramatic tone to go back for more. Mumford’s acoustic guitar is often in the forefront of the songs found on “Babel” making it a repetitive listen by the time you get to the album closer “Not With Haste.”
The album isn’t awful in any way, and at times can be a rewarding listen, but the slow songs often meander and are too similar to each other to feel any sort of passion from them. “Babel” does nothing out of the ordinary, which makes this an easy enough album to listen to, but also a very dull one. It’s great to see a rock band get commercial attention in this day and age, but it makes sense when it’s from a band as dull as Mumford and Sons. In an era that is built on so many different cultures and tastes, it only makes sense that a folk band without any clear identity is the one getting the most attention.