After becoming the biggest band in the world on the back of their subtly re-jigged take on the ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ soundtrack, Mumford & Sons have decided that they’ve had enough of everyone from The Lumineers to Avicii stealing their downhome-y hoedown schtick and have performed something of a sonic volteface.
The banjos have been ceremoniously burnt on an artisan, hand-crafted bonfires and the white granddad shirts and tweed waistcoats have been swapped for well-worn leather and battered denim. The barn dancing, willow-whittling Mumford & Sons are no more – in their place is a tougher band entirely, sonically and visually. Not only have the old-timey instruments been ditched, but they’ve also finally scrapped enough pennies together to afford a proper drumkit. Marcus Mumford’s kick drum has been booted to the wayside and producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Haim) has been drafted in as the album’s sticksman, allowed the band a beefier, straight-up more rock and roll sound.
But isn’t it a gamble to mess with a formula that’s seen the band score Brit Awards, Grammys and platinum sales left right and centre? Well, no. First single ‘Believe’ proves that the Mumfords know exactly what they’re doing. Half of the group’s third album ‘Wilder Mind’ was penned under the watchful eye of The National’s Aaron Dessner, in his garage studio, where the likes of Sharon Van Etten have also recorded, and the emotive influence of Brooklyn’s finest hangs heavy in ‘Believe’. Twinkling synths herald its arrival, as Marcus softly deals with weighty matters of the heart. “I don’t even know if I believe/everything you’re trying to say to me,” he croons, as the song keeps relativley light on its feet over its first half, as languid keys do calmly flirt with the idea of becoming a string section, but then think better of it. It’s all change at two minute mark though, when Winston Marshall, finally free from the shackles of the banjo, lets rip a piercing electric guitar wail as the song rockets skywards. From here on in its a steady race to epic heights. “Say something like you love me,” implores Marcus against increased riffage courtesy of Winston, in what’s easily the first stadium-worthy song of 2015.