When Mumford & Sons replaced their suspenders and banjos with leather jackets and electric guitars during the Saturday Night Live show on April 11, the “gentlemen of the road” gave fans a taste of their new rock and roll veneer. Along with the banjos and accordions, Mumford & Sons locked away their folk vibes in favor of a rock sound for their new album Wilder Mind, released May 4.
The album is part of the band’s attempt to reestablish its image. While original fans may be disappointed the group is turning away from the signature banjo that played a role in its rise to fame, Wilder Mind proves Mumford & Sons holds its own in the rock realm.
The group supplements the tracks with a variety of guitar riffs and drum beats not heard on previous Mumford tracks. In altering their sound, Mumford & Sons displays similarities to other rock groups. They fill songs such as “Believe” with strong atmospherics found in Coldplay tracks and incorporated short, repetitive beats in songs such as “Ditmas” and “Wilder Mind” that resemble instrumentals from The Strokes.
Despite the changes, Wilder Mind maintains the powerful lyrics and energy apparent in their previous albums, Sigh No More and Babel. In typical Mumford & Sons fashion, the songs on Wilder Mind start off with soft and slow intros. At the chorus, lead singer Marcus Mumford delivers his explosive vigor, especially in anthems such as “The Wolf” and “Just Smoke.”
Their lyrics, which are known for religious and literary references, take a more honest, questioning approach to love and belief in Wilder Mind. In past songs such as “Sigh No More,” Mumford croons to the line: “Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you; it will set you free.” In the new song “Only Love,” the band members seem to question the validity of that statement when they sing, “Didn’t they say that only love will win in the end?”
While Mumford repeats the Shakespeare quote “Serve God, love me and mend” in “Sigh No More,” Wilder Mind is filled with skeptical lines, such as “I don’t even know if I believe” in the song “Believe.” The album’s change in perspective could be because all band members, two of whom had just gotten out of long-term relationships, played a role in writing the lyrics. For past albums, Mumford handled most of the writing.
They continue to evoke a sense of a new belief system in the song “Cold Arms.” While in “White Blank Page” from their first album, Mumford belts the line: “lead me to the truth, and I will follow you with my whole life,” in “Cold Arms,” with a quiet, resigned tone, Mumford declares: “maybe the truth’s not what we need.” Listeners will appreciate the new, bold honesty apparent in these tracks.
A complete and sudden change in image might deter some old fans from listening to the album, but Mumford & Sons certainly caught people’s attention with Wilder Mind. Not only was their alteration attention-grabbing, it also shows they can succeed without the novelty of jamming on a banjo. Their former image may have been fleeting, but their strong song writing and energy are not going anywhere soon.
Album: Wilder Mind
Artist: Mumford & Sons