Look, the first album was bad enough – but the second: fuck me, it was awful. And then I had to see them live. And sure, I can admit that they could play – but what they were playing – well it sounded, for the most part, like someone had just chucked a banjo ina clothes drier. But I’m allowed to say that – because I listened, oh yes, I listened – all the way through, and more than once, to the second Mumford and Sons album. A monstrosity of non-taste. A tower of audio excrement. I listened. And I felt sick that I did.
I’m always happy to have a listen, just not always happy after I have. That’s my motto.
Always has been, always will be. But Babel – the second Mumford album – nah. That was just shit. Let me take you back to how it was when I heard it…
Okay, I was prepared to have a listen or two to Babel, the new album by Mumford & Sons. But I’m not sure I was prepared for how insultingly slick-stroppy it would be. The band announced itself to the world in 2009 – and across 2010 from there – as a faintly ridiculous po-faced parody-folk group with debut, Sigh No More. If you imagined Coldplay covering all the songs from A Mighty Wind you weren’t far off. If you imagined that this water-coloured rousing country ruse would not resonate with Cosmopolitan readers and drinkers then you were pretty far off indeed.
In the years that have passed – and many of the Mumford fans have presumably bought no other CDs at all – not a lot has changed in the Mumford world. Here was a chance to, essentially, re-record the debut album changing only the titles of the songs and with an increased studio budget they were able to pay for an engineer to hover over the left-hand side of the console and hold down the “relentless” button whenever a banjo stormed into place.
With all the skill – and much of the sound – of a lazy after-school lawn mowing service, the group’s banjo player sets about to walk over the songs, destroying whatever was there before he pulled the chord.
To many it would seem close to unfathomable that Mumford & Sons are described as anything resembling country or folk – or music. And it seems one of the biggest disgraces of recent times that a noise cut to resemble a sound has been found by many as some saviour of pop music. In fact it is easier to believe that Mumford & Sons is, simply, music for people who don’t usually listen to music. People who have no idea of nuance within music but simply like the noise it makes. That probably comes closer in describing the band’s members actually.
Rousing, righteous and interminable, Babel – which is what happens when you push the words bible and babble together – is a sad reminder that taste means nothing between meals to a lot of people.
And just as Adele is to soul, so Mumford is to folk music. Which is to say that if it’s your first experience with something resembling the sound then you can be forgiven, they [the musicians], on the other hand, cannot.
And why folk music or country music even comes into this is all a little baffling. Banjo thrumming and acoustic guitar strumming, that’s all – after that there is no comparison, there is no reason to line up what Mumford is doing with any version of British or European folk music, with any semblance of whatever era of Americana you dare to discover.
The sound of Mumford & Sons, particularly the Sunday School-scrubbing of Babel, is simply an entitled, privileged loudmouth. Yelling. Often. Loudly. With a banjo. That is all that is happening here. And it happens over and over for nearly an hour, it’s really quite exhausting. Petulant but immaculate. Charmless. Soulless.
Apparently that is enough for concerts to sell out and for albums to be snapped up (be nice if they were just snapped).
And a lie of authenticity somehow sneaks through and is picked up on – because Mumford & Sons are preaching to the (easily) diverted; those happy to have this faux-earnest stomp served up.
Listen to I Will Wait. Is it not excruciating? Isn’t it just torturous?
I have listened to Babel more than once – which is more than it deserves. And I keep thinking that these songs are like kindergarten landscapes; you know, stuck together with various scraps and a glitter-pen. You’re told they resemble what they are and you want to believe that. In the case of a young person doing their best to be creative with limited skills at the time that’s fine, something beautiful and naive and hopeful can be seen to be peeking through – so long as you remind yourself that a kid of three or four was the one having a go…
But huckster hillbillies in their twenties with too much jangle, not enough spit, nothing resembling grit, sensible shirts and ironed jeans should not be proud of parading around their country portraits made in crayon with sprinkles of glitter, seashells and macaroni.
For that is about as clever as the music gets, arrangement-wise. It’s all meant to look like it is big-picture, so very widescreen.
Music from Babel will no doubt soundtrack a romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon.
Music from Babel will no doubt carry on being called music by people who don’t actually listen to music – but push the boat out now and then (probably in a very literal sense in fact) with Coldplay on in the background; maybe even – oooh! – a little Arcade Fire from time to time.
Music from Babel is just notes from the pulpit being shouted down to a frenzy of fans too stupid to go in for anything else.
Because there’s no argument that can be made that justifies listening to this uninspired drivel.
To continue to give this band air-time is to continue to admit to yourself that you really have no idea what you’re doing – but would like a guy who can’t really sing to yell in your general direction for a while.
Finally, know this. Because it is a fact: Mumford & Sons are, quite simply, just another boy band. This time, it’s a Waistcoat Boy Band – with banjo attached. Far too much fucking banjo as it happens.
And I might be the only person seeing and hearing this, but Mumford & Sons are just a little bit like Six60 really…there’s a similar energy and drive that covers up for lack of nuance, absence of dynamics and stomping over of actual sentiment, of genuine emotion.
That’s my issue with Mumford & Sons and listening to Babel made it sickeningly clear: I just don’t believe them. Let alone believe in them.
But maybe I’m not being harsh enough. So this is where you come in…
What do you make of Mumford & Sons? What do you think of the awful name, the stupid songs, the over-the-top frenzy and fervour that fans greet this hackneyed babbling with? How about the Christian element in the music; it’s that kind that’s just ever so embarrassed about itself and won’t quite commit and own up to, right? The friend you meet, you get on with well, but can never make plans to meet up with on a Sunday morning and yet they’ll never quite tell you why…
Are you a Mumford & Sons fan? Or are you close to distraught that a world can not only tolerate but promote such obviously facile and fraudulent-folk stirrings and scrapings?
It Was The Worst started life as a series of posts on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page