Despite having been away for a little time on a self-imposed hiatus, Mumford & Sons have never been that far off the radar thanks to their previous radio friendly catalogue. Having announced their return in January of this year, most have been expecting a set of new toe-tappin’, tobacco chewin’ tunes. What did we know. Re-writing what has gone before them, Mr. Mumford & Co. are no longer the minimal, strum and stomp act that shot them to fame in 2009. Despite it being a staple of their craft, Winston Marshall has hung up his banjo at least for the moment; the band now also own a full drum kit, assumedly amassing enough money to add to that solitary kick-drum of olde.
Lead singles ‘Believe’ and ‘The Wolf’ may have produced mixed reactions at least, but their self proclaimed “natural departure” is one which see’s much more depth than we’ve heard from them before. Opening with ‘Tompkins Square Park’, the shift is distinguished; it’s actually a beautiful stand alone track that doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the album, the lyrics “no flame burns forever, you and I both know this all too well” directly referencing their departure.
Despite the tempo, the title track has some dulcet tones of piano and lead electric which intertwine to create something quite relaxing and contemplative. At times the band lose ground, referring to the wanton ways of “dancing in the devils arms” and “young love keeping us young” but still there’s a charm to the record. ‘Snake Eyes’ abides by a certain formula and, while it doesn’t sound too similar to certain contemporaries, it follows the same slow building rubric as U2 or Coldplay and ends up with unavoidable comparisons. On the other hand, ‘Broad-Shouldered Beasts’ and ‘Cold Arms’ offer two stand out performances from Marcus Mumford, both lyrically and vocally. It takes the talent of the last seven years and applies it in a more intelligent way than we have heard before; the latter is a bare and despondent track fans of Conor O’Brien could appreciate.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this new maturity would take away from their energy, yet ‘Ditmas’ and ‘Only Love’ still have all the vigour of youth, delivered in a punchy rock songs made all the better with the crash of cymbals and thump of a snare. Finale ‘Hot Gates’ ends in a swell of sentiment and in retrospect isn’t actually a million miles away from the work of Babel, a slow burner which never really reaches the height you’d expect but then again, taking the standard of what comes before, it’s probably acceptable to feel a little critical of the closer.
What Wilder Mind emphatically showcases is that there is a living, breathing band beneath the buskers’ facade which carried them to success originally. Previous albums proved how fast and loud these boys could play but it’s restraint here that really hits home.