A few years ago Mumford and Sons seemed to one of the biggest bands of the time winning numerous awards for the highly acclaimed second album Babel and securing a headline slot at Glastonbury 2013. However after this the band seemed to slip below the radar with rumours of a breakup beginning to surface raising questions about if there would be a future for the London group who brought modern folk music to the masses. Then in late 2014 we were suddenly made aware that the band would be returning with their third album Wilder Mind, something which was received in different ways. After all the music scene changes rapidly and there may no longer be room for tweed caps and tractors but, adamant to make this comeback, straw has been swapped for synthesisers and banjos have been replaced by bass guitars giving the band a new sound – even if there still is a tinge of west country farmer.
The first taste of this new sound is heard in the opening track Tompkins Square Park and so far there’s no sign of a banjo. Instead there’s echoing guitar riffs that have a slightly chilling feel to them which, quite frankly, was not what I expected with a more minimalist feel with dour undertones totally contrasting to the elation of Babel and Sigh No More. When listening to the album chronologically, there’s a peaceful transition into Believe which was the first single to be debuted from the album and this time it’s more similar to the older sounds of the band with the slow climactic build up leading into a euphoric and passionate anthem but again, no banjo. After this the pace of the record begins to pick up with tracks like The Wolf, Snake Eyes and Broad Shouldered Beasts again not being dissimilar to early tracks but instead a developed version. These tracks make it hard to tell whether the band have actually changed their style that much or it’s just the simple trick of using different instruments. On a side note, whilst hearing the opening of title track Wilder Mind, it was hard to differentiate as to whether I was listening to Mumford and Sons or the opening to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off with the similarity being so uncanny I had to check the sidebar of my Spotify.
As the record begins to conclude, we’re taken in a full circle back to the melancholia we heard the album open through the lament of Cold Arms. It’s an intimate track hearing simply the aching vocals of Marcus Mumford and an electric-acoustic guitar resonating tones of passionate despair. He sings about how in their bedroom they’re ‘bloodshot and beat’ and in his ‘cold arms you don’t sleep’ making it a poignant tale of anguished love. Hot Gates is the last track on the album and, personally, I feel that some of the other tracks would have been better suited to this. For me it’s one of the weaker songs on the album as it seems to lack the progression of emotion we’ve previously been exposed to until the end where it does seem to move towards some sort of climax.
It’s relatively hard to gather my overall thoughts on the album as it seems to be a combination of songs that either contrast dramatically or are extremely similar but among these there are tracks that make it feel as if the band have moved in the right direction. Summer is set to see Mumford and Sons touring again with a headline slot a Reading and Leeds and also performances at various European festivals so, whether it excites you or not, the band’s return is likely to be a prominent one. However as they say in the opening track, ‘no flame burns forever’.
Words by William Castile