Mumford & Sons: Is Wilder Mind everything it could be?
It’s a big year for Mumford & Sons. A year of change and transition for the band after the release of their third studio album Wilder Mind which saw them drop their traditional, banjo-fuelled folk sound that fans had grown so in love with. What sparked the change is uncertain, but the band did it and felt comfortable with it and anxiously awaited their fans’ criticism and response on 4th May. Needless to say, with a change came mixed response. Some mourned the loss of the old Mumford & Sons and others were very pleased with the new material. The band would have the chance to share the new material live throughout the year, including at their headline sets at Bonnaroo and Reading and Leeds Festival, the latter being the goal of pretty much every guitar playing, drum hitting and ambitious kid in the world. Marcus Mumford and co. made a bold decision to change. Success began knocking at Mumford & Sons’ door in 2009 when the band released Sigh No More. They had been labelled as part of the “West London folk scene” and it’s obvious why. The group vocals, the banjos and the single bass drum was Mumford & Sons’ sound. They welcomed the label in some ways, but in an interview with the Herald Sun, frontman Marcus Mumford said, “It’s not folk really. Well, some of it, and it’s certainly not a scene. Someone got over-excited about a few bands who live in a hundred-mile radius and put it in a box to sell it as a package. It’s a community, not a scene. It’s not exclusive.” That may well be how Mumford felt or still feels about the music, but it was clear to see that his band were growing much faster than the others in the “community”. Sigh No More features one of the bands biggest song. A song that is still played at every gig to date and sparks a huge reaction from every city. Little Lion Man showed Mumford & Sons huge potential and they knew that considering it was the only song on the album that was also featured on their first EP, Love Your Ground, which came out on Chess Club Records at the end of 2008.
With a strong following showing up to every one of the band’s shows either side of the atlantic, they were ready to release their much anticipated follow up three years later. Mumford & Sons created their own label called Gentlemen of the Road. They released Babel through Gentlemen of the Road and things, well, exploded, in the lack of better words. They also released a live album and DVD that year from their concert at the stunning Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Mumford & Sons then experienced some unexpected turbulence. After playing two shows on 8th and 9th June 2013 as part of the band’s huge Gentlemen of the Road tour, bassist Ted Dwane checked into hospital where doctors found a blood clot on the surface of his brain and Dwane found himself in surgery. Of course this caused the band to cancel the remaining tour dates, including a set at the 2013 Bonnaroo Festival. However, that wasn’t the only show threatened. At the end of the month the band were scheduled to headline arguably the biggest and greatest music festival in the world, Glastonbury. Fortunately, Dwane’s recovery was speedy and the band were able to step out onto the Pyramid Stage for their biggest show to date, which went down an absolute storm.
So there you have it. With just two studio albums and an E.P, Mumford & Sons had become one of the biggest bands in the world. What else was there to do? Oh yeah, change.
Change is a big deal for a band. It can go one of two ways, great, or terribly bad. Thankfully, Mumford & Sons had already hit it big so any arguments saying they were selling out could be pushed aside to the load-of-shit pile early on. It was only really when the first album teaser dropped that people were aware of the change. The band were wearing leather jackets and using these miraculous new instruments called electric guitars. All sarcasm aside though, there really was something new about to hit the airwaves and it didn’t appear to be anywhere near as folk as their previous releases.
A few days after the album announcement, which would be called Wilder Minds the first single was released. Believe. Typical to Mumford and Sons, it starts slow before opening up into a gigantic sound, only this time the sound somewhat lacked their unique essence. It’s a great track, but is it the Mumford & Sons that headlined Glastonbury Festival? The danger the album had was the fact that it could easily change the band into another Coldplay. Boring, generic and a band that makes you question, “how the fuck did these guys get so big?”
I recall listening to Wilder Mind and quite enjoying it. To answer my previous question, it is still Mumford & Sons. You can hear the old folk-style lying somewhere between strong guitars and an actual drum kit. Marcus Mumford’s voice shows to be versatile, suiting the new sound and it works well for them, however, listening to the album a few more times the thing I can’t work out an answer to is this; If this was Mumford & Sons debut release, would they get to the same size as they did with Sigh No More? It’s a great record. They haven’t just abandoned their roots, but instead added more to it. It’s not an experimental record at all, but possibly to Mumford & Sons it is.
When watching the band headline Reading Festival 2015, as soon as they kick into their second song of the set, I Will Wait from Babel, the crowd erupts with excitement which sends those intense shivers down your spine. The set is combined with new songs and old, proving a real variety of music and reminding you why, wether you like them or not, they are worthy of being a headline act. In this case, change was a positive decision for the West London quartet. It’s clear that they have made it work, but disregarding Sigh No More and Babel, would Wilder Mind have achieved the same success?