The waistcoat-loving quartet are back with second album ‘Babel’, and it’s classic Mumford. Released on 24 September, and produced by ‘Sigh No More’s Marcus Dravs, there’s been no huge stylistic changes. Expect big choruses, big vocals, and a lot of banjo. Read on for our track-by-track, first-listen response – and look out for the full review in an upcoming issue of the mag.
Opening with a blistering banjo intro, the title track is a statement of intent. Marcus Mumford spits, “I know my weakness, know my voice. And I believe in grace and choice'”. As the chorus hits, the biblical allusions that inspired the album title kick in.
Like the city that nurtured my greed and my pride, I stretch my arms into the sky. I cry ‘Babel, Babel, look at me now’, and the walls of my town they come tumbling down.
A gentle beginning, before a bass drum kicks in with some unusual rhythms. ”Whispers in the dark, steal a kiss, you’ll break a heart’ sings Marcus. It’s a wave to the road, a hat-tip – a kind of ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ via Shepherd’s Bush. Ends joyfully – “We must live while we are young”.
The new single fits in well in the track-listing. Keyboard player Ben Lovett joking described it as “the worst track on the record – we just thought we’d get it out.” Don’t worry, he’s not being serious. Read our review
“With your heart like a stone, you spared no time in lashing out”. Both mournful and hopeful at the same time, the optimism takes over near the end, as the track closes with a repeated cry of “I still believe” over soothing ‘ah’s.
‘Ghosts That We Knew’
Opening line “You saw my pain, washed out in the rain” is not Mumford And Sons’ best lyrical moment, but the track sweetly takes on a spiritual/gospel feel, featuring the killer line: “Give me hope in the darkness so I can see the light”.
‘Lover Of The Light’
Optimistic, folky. Banjo takes a back seat. Featuring the most rousing chorus on the entire album, it’s destined to be a live highlight, and builds to a bombastic conclusion, accented with horns:
Love the one you hold, and I’ll be your goal, to have and to hold, the lover of the light.
There’s a mix in instrumentation – horns and brass make an appearance beneath a banjo riff. The tone is sombre but proud, with Marcus Mumford reflecting on the breakdown of a relationship. “I walk slow, take my hand, help me on my way.”
More of an interlude than a track. Opens with a solo vocal: “Don’t let me darken your door, it’s not what I came here for”, then a spoken, “No, it’s not what I came here for”. The delivery is restrained, like a folk singer in a pub. Segues into the next track after two minutes.
Over five minutes long, this one’s epic. Opens as piano-led torch song: “You heard my voice, I came out of the woods by choice” to “I will call you by name, I will share your road” into up-tempo classic Mumford. “You brought me out from the cold, how I long to grow old”.
Darker than the other tracks so far. “I will not speak of your sins”. There’s a kind of Russian folk song beat, with Marcus howling,“Crawl on my belly until the sun goes down, I’ll never wear your broken crown”. It’s the best, most visceral track yet.
‘Below My Feet’
Opens with a pretty banjo riff and classic Mumford harmonies: “Keep the earth below my feet, from my sweat my blood runs weak”. It’s an ode to keeping your feet on the ground – more than likely inspired by the whirlwind year the group have just had.
With a chorus of “We’ll be who we are, and they’ll heal our scars/Sadness will be far away”, this is as close to a ‘haters gonna hate’ sentiment as Mumfords are going to write. That said, it’s still hearty, upbeat and rousing to the end. No downers here.