Does Mumford's New Album Jump the Shark?
Sometimes liking a band or an actor or a TV show can be difficult. No, gut wrenching is a better term.
Johnny Depp can make Mortdecai, Shonda Rimes can kill off McDreamy and a band can change from acoustic to electric instruments, but to what outcome? Will fans follow along? Actors, show runners and musicians can decide to do whatever they want, but a fan can be left thinking “What are they DOING?” Often we go along for the ride because we want to see what happens next. Will Johnny Depp pull off another Oscar worthy performance? Will Grey’s Anatomy ever stop jumping the shark? Will Mumford and Sons figure out what they want to be? With all of these artists, it’s probable we read too much into their decisions and forget they are just normal people doing their job.
But what about Mumford and Sons? Are they the banjo and mandolin playing group in jeans with lyrics referencing the Bible and literary works or are they the electric guitar playing, black leather wearing dudes signing of heartbreak and the damage left behind after love?
The answer appears to be: Yes.
Filled with lyrics of lost love, self doubt and longing, their new release, Wilder Mind, is more than a dark album, it’s downright depressing. Forget the loss of the banjo and acoustic instruments. That’s minor in comparison to the loss of the hope and joy from lyrics of the past like “lover of the light” and “love will not betray you, dismay you or enslave you- it will set you free.”
Wilder Mind says love will leave you, let you down, destroy you, definitely enslave you and then leave you behind in a heap. In the past fans have been known to tattoo their lyrics across various body parts, but there are no inkable lyrics on the whole album. No “awake my soul” or “raise my hands, paint my spirit gold.” Electric instruments, guitar riffs and a full drum kit can’t hide the sadness. I know half of the band members broke up with long time girlfriends while writing the album, but really, a little bit of levity might have been nice.
I think fans will follow along on their artistic journey. For now. Their touring set list will be an ongoing battle for sure. They will have to figure out how to seamlessly transition between songs and instruments knowing full well the audience is going to respond louder to the old stuff. When U2 released No Line On The Horizon, they set off on “The Claw” tour and quickly realized they had to completely change their set list because the audience didn’t care about the new songs as much as the band did. Will Mumford have that same realization?
These guys are in their 20s probably trying to figure out who they are as people as well as musicians. For as much love and support they received from their hipster look and nu-folk sound with the first two albums, they also received just as much hate and distain. But no band needs to be put in a box and if they want to play a trashcan lid (seen it done by another group and it was great), then so be it.
As a long time fan, I have chosen not to purchase tickets for the new tour…yet. Before I check them out, I want them to work out the kinks. Because I saw the 360 degree U2 show at The Rose Bowl with 90,000 of my closest friends and felt the audience disappear when they played any new song from No Line On The Horizon album…and I LOVED No Line On The Horizon. I was truly angry when I felt the people around me stand still when Bono sang out “Magnificent.” I am willing to following along with the Mumford boys for the long haul and look forward to see what happens next (which will probably be a electric/acoustic combo).