Mumford & Sons – Babel
- By Chris Jefferies -
- Sep 24, 2012
Pressure, what pressure? With three years of expectation on their shoulders, Mumford & Sons have finally followed up their monumentally successful debut album (which went multi-platinum on both sides of the Atlantic) with a record that they describe as "unashamed".
'Babel' picks up where 'Sigh No More' left off, as the band stick to the recipe which got them where they are today. Produced once again by Markus Dravs (the man behind the most recent Coldplay and Arcade Fire albums), all the key hallmarks are present in these 12 tracks, from three-part harmony vocals to rapid banjo arpeggios and the odd orchestral flourish. Those hoping for a David Bowie-esque reinvention will be left disappointed; there is not a track on here that would sound out of place on the previous album.
The direct and uplifting title track sets the tone and foot-stomping tempo for the first half of this record, while 'Whispers In The Dark' keeps the ball rolling nicely. Lead-off single 'I Will Wait' is a definite highlight with a simple, yet fantastically sing-able chorus and a rousing crescendo.
As the record progresses, the band take a few calculated risks without ever ripping up the rule book. 'Lover of the Light' is a soaring standout track, while 'Broken Crown' showcases Marcus Mumford's vicious side and willingness to slip in the odd swearword.
At the same time there is no trace of arrogance or complacency that sometimes comes with meteoric success. Mumford's lyrics are still underpinned by an endearing humility, as he pleads in 'Below My Feet': "Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn."
However, it's hard to see this album making anywhere near as much of an impact as its predecessor. Back in 2009, Mumford & Sons led the new-folk charge, sounding fresh, dynamic and truly unique. These days there are plenty of imitators out there and, in the form of Dry The River, some serious contenders.
Without wanting to decry this solid and satisfactory album, there is little here to match the dizzying brilliance of 'Sigh No More', and plenty that will surely be used to pad out the live set. 'Babel' is very much the sound of a band sticking rather than twisting, a tactic that should serve them well in the short term, but they will need more invention next time around to keep their distinctly retro bandwagon rolling.
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