Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

I have a slightly mixed relationship with Mumford & Sons, and not really for great reasons.  I remember being amazed by them the first time I saw them live, and their first EP in particular was a superb piece of work.  That was just as they started to go from being very much under the radar to very much on it, and I am not sure whether it was because the awe wore off or because a couple of internal miscommunications saw them renege on a promise to play a show for a friend up here, and so I sort of sulked with them a bit, which I know is largely unreasonable, but there you are.

Whatever the cause, I’ve taken my eye off them for the last eight months or so, during which time my prediction from seeing their first show – that they genuinely had the chance to break out of the alternative into the mainstream and make it quite big – seems increasingly to be coming true.  I am not claiming much cleverness in making that prediction of course, it really was obvious to everyone.

This album has been a little while coming, and contains a lot of old favourites from their preceding two EPs, so fans of the band will be pretty familiar with most of the songs already.  There’s also a grandiosity and an earnestness to their stuff which earned Broken Records’ debut album so much opprobrium, and I will repeat what I said about that album here: the way to deal with that kind of thing is not to fight it and not to pretend it isn’t there; just embrace it, turn the stereo up fucking loud and enjoy.  That was the way to enjoy Until the Earth Begins to Part, and it’s also the way to enjoy this.

They are like a euphoric four-man gospel choir when they really get going, and it’s all very soaring and words like that which we pseudo-journalists love.  But it is soaring.  Thunderous is also what it is.  Marcus Mumford used to be Laura Marling’s drummer* and even when the band were playing small DIY shows he brought along a kick-drum, so there was always a thumping rhythm driving on through the set with real passion.  It makes you want to dance – even me.

A couple of the songs are merely quite good, so I can’t pretend to maintain quite the reckless crush I indulged after the first time I came across the band at the Captain’s Rest in Glasgow, but there are a lot of really brilliant tunes on this record, and I can’t help imagining them all in a live setting and that manic buzz Mumford & Sons give the audience when they play.

Dust Bowl Dance might be the one big winner for me on Sigh No More.  It’s not my favourite song – that would be between the two early ones, Awake My Soul or White Blank Page – but the way it builds from a gentle piano and banjo-led lament to a full on electric guitar explosion at the end is as good an embodiment of the whirlwind these lads can generate.  It may be too straight-faced to please the ironists or too smooth for the experimentalists, but as blazing pop albums based on an indie-folk template go, this is as good as you’re likely to hear.

Mumford & Sons – White Blank Page


Mumford & Sons – Dust Bowl Dance

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*And he must also be mightily sick of seeing that fact mentioned in reviews.  Sorry Marcus.