Look, hating on Mumford & Sons is ridiculously predictable. The jokes are easy (play with your banjo, lol), the music pretty much facilitates any further piss-taking, and collectively the group seem to have all the personality of a straw. But – bafflingly or appropriately, depending on how much credit you give the music-buying public – they sell a shit-tonne of records. So we’re taking Wilder Mind as our second opportunity to work out why that is.
Sadly, about a minute into opening track Tompkins Square Park and any notion of objective analysis has gone out of the window. It almost feels like a deliberate goad that this is as generic as radio-rock comes, from the painfully simple chord construction to the lackadaisical Mumford delivery. Fine. We’ll play it your way then – if you’re not going to make the effort, lads, neither will we.
Throughout the record it feels as though, banjos notwithstanding, the band have made very little effort to innovate, or even credit the audience with an expectation for something different. Lead single Believe is a pastiche of new-era Coldplay and Kings of Leon, with guitar-thrashing so desperate to fill a stadium that the sheet music would probably read the shape of the Wembley arches.
The rest? Insulting tracks like The Wolf, which goes beyond genre stereotype to put forward a tick-box road to nowhere. Or lines like “fuck your dream/ don’t you pick at our scene” on the misguidedly jagged Monster. That protracted wild-animal theme continues with the stale air of Snake Eyes and Broad-Shouldered Beasts, which effectively retain the quality of an audiobook Countryfile.
We gave Mumford & Sons a fair chance, we really did. But it’s hard to hold an olive branch to an act that seems to not only yank it from you, but whittle it down to a beige, sanded rod. For an album called Wilder Mind, it’s about as edgy as a squash ball, and fully reflective of that album cover. There’s a bursting city of inspiration in front of Mumford & Sons. Instead they prefer to serve us the dull and clichéd foreground of an empty wooden bench. Says it all, really.
Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons can be ordered here. If you’re still clicking that link after this review, fair play to you.