By Sean Mongie
Mumford and Sons’ Babel proves with absolute certainty that they’re here to stay. A month has more or less passed since Mumford & Sons released their much anticipated second album, Babel.
Out of the ether they appeared with Sigh No More in 2009 with their unique blend of folk and rock. All who heard it were unable to resist its urgings to stomp one’s feet and cry out in unison to songs like “Little Lion Man” and “Roll Away Your Stone”.
But with this second album, Mumford & Sons have needed to prove whether they are a mere one-hit-wonder or whether they will continue to lift our spirits to ecstasy and drown our souls in sorrow with the slightest stroke of a banjo’s strings.
From the moment the first track and namesake of the album begins though, “Babel” sweeps away any doubts as to whether it lacks the emotive appeal of the previous album. The biblical title is appropriate, for the thumping, swelling energy that “Babel” exudes is awesome to behold- it is foot-stompingly good.
Despite their growing confidence the band makes no claims to have “arrived” as artists.
“Yeah, I think making this second album has made us more confident as a band,” Marcus Mumford, lead singer and guitarist, said in an interview with The Celeb Factory. “I think it made us start realising what we think, actually, because we’re still growing up massively.”
“We’ve started knowing ourselves a bit better and therefore having a bit more self-confidence.”
This self-confidence is particularly evident in the song “Babel”, for after the climactic thud of the kick-drum and the soulful strumming of its verse it calms to a quiet declaration of exactly where Mumford and Sons stand as a still-developing group:
“I know my weakness, know my voice
But I believe in grace and choice.”
Mumford & Sons have been quick to acknowledge they haven’t created their music in a vacuum and what better way to acknowledge their inspiration than to cover the forefathers of simple instrumentals, beautiful lyrics and chilling harmonies- Simon & Garfunkel?
“The Boxer” is a song about a boy lost in search of his own manhood and it is poetic that Mumford & Sons should cover this song in an album meant to clarify their own still-forming identity:
“When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy.”
Mumford & Sons were tremendously successful with their debut album yet in many ways, untried. With Babel, they have established themselves as artists who will continue to produce music that stirs the soul and quickens the pulse of even the most sedate of listeners.
Babel is more than just a repeat of a successful formula, and it is more than just a concerted effort to prove the deservedness of Mumford & Sons’ popularity.
Rather, it is a ceaselessly humble search for the essence of what it is exactly that allows Marcus, Ben, Country and Ted to grab hold of their listeners’ hearts and play upon them to such gratifying effect.
They may not know what ‘it’ is yet, but I say play on. Because I cannot wait until they find out.