The Mumford Experiment

Posted on February 21, 2013


It happened like this. I discovered the Brit Awards were being presented the other night via a disagreement on a friend’s Facebook. Simon was strongly expressing his dissatisfaction with Mumford & Sons (their award as best something or other, and just in general I think) and in turn an acquaintance of his was claiming they were perfectly harmless and that there were plenty worse sins out there in the great musical sea.

And so it occurred to me that I’d never really listened to the band. Somehow I didn’t get round to them when they were upcoming, and once they got Really Big that put them off limits for me. Because — and I suppose it’s a weird sort of elitism — I automatically assume that if it’s Really Popular, I’m not going to like it.

So, yes, never listened to Mumford, or Adele, or Emeli Sande, or One Direction. All Brit winners this year. I don’t feel that I’ve missed out particularly — there’s plenty of great music out there keeping me entertained.

But sometimes I like to challenge those assumptions, and today I gave the last hour and half at work over to giving Mumford a working listen. A working listen is a great way of testing an album out. You’re concentrating on something else (in my case formatting and editing a doc) with the music playing and see if there’s anything in there that demands your attention. A hook, a melody, a rhythm, a bit of quality playing, a texture, something productiony. Anything.

I’ve rarely had such an uninterrupted work session.

Honestly(and I say this not because they’re an easy target), there’s nothing bad in Mumford (even if their name — and rather earnest styling — do remind me of a department in Debenhams), but for me, they just lack…personality? The first album is tonally monolithic. The second one is more textured, but still. Bottom line is after two albums I couldn’t remember one good tune. With their fat harmony choruses and stompy bass drum I can imagine they’re a decent shout for a festival chant-along, and I like their core use of acoustic instruments, but they’re not a band blessed with earwormability.

The fella Simon was arguing with mentioned M&S might be a decent  introduction to modern  folky-tinged stuff, and I agree with that.  But if you want a stomp-along, chant-along festival act, go see Bellowhead. If you want songs stuffed with invention, wit and proper tunes seek out Woodenbox or (as Simon suggested) The Decemberists. And if you’re really looking for band-sized acousto-rock with lovely fuzzy harmony vocals? Why look any further than Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young?

So, alas, in this case, the experiment came down on the side of my assumptions. I’ll do it again sometime, but it may be a while before I try it with 1D.

Posted in: Music