Mumford and Sons’ Believe ★★★
‘I don’t even know if I believe…everything you’re trying to say to me’
GIMMICKY, LOST, and full of predictable, cliched lyrics, it is not a great start to the Mumford and Sons new album.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a Mumford and Sons fan. Take a trip down memory lane and our ears are blessed by the seemingly revolutionary sounds (in the UK at least) of a take on American folk music; banjos, pianos, guitars, cellos, violins allowing for the band to play with iconic musical stars such as Arcade Fire, Beirut, Johnny Flynn and the Vaccines. Famed for their trademark songs containing soft acoustic beginnings that crescendo into an explosion of wonderfully collaborated acoustic sounds, their newest song ‘Believe’ shows a deviation away from their norm…and what a disappointment.
There is a risk for an artist to become a one-trick pony if they don’t experiment with other genres. But what if that pony’s trick is so magnificent that people love watching it over and over again, like listening to Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ on repeat, or watching any Liam Neeson film – they are good at what they do and people enjoy them consistently. Artists establish themselves based on their mastery over a specific and focussed genre. Mumford and Sons’ charm was created through their mastery of folk, Marcus’s unique voice and the very fact that electricity did not feature in their songs.
‘Believe’ strips Mumford and Sons of their previous appeal. Indeed, the surge of artists and bands who have donned a ‘no-electric’ approach to their music might have spurred Mumford and Sons to adopt the electric guitars and relatively synthesised voice in a bid to differentiate themselves; however, the band had produced two very good albums with just raw instruments and vocals, and are famed for it – why change? I am not anti-electric and I feel, when done well, it sounds great – the likes of Radiohead, Dire Straits and Led Zeppelin (the artists who inspired Mumford and Sons new sound) all create inspirational music based on the electric guitar. However, this first song of the (former?) folk band hasn’t hit point, either lyrically or musically.
The band have said that they were always leading towards an electronic approach; but Mumford and Sons are going to need a hidden gem in the Wilder Mind album in order to prove that they can make the genre work for them.
A band established and famed for folk music taking a turn to electronic is a massive risk. This first song hasn’t worked well for them, but with an entire album still to come, lets hope the originality, charm and intricacies of the former Mumford and Sons can come into the fore.