Mumford & Sons’ surprisingly extensive spring clean sees them throwing out their banjos and upright bass in favour of electric guitars and an injection of angsty self-indulgent rock. This change in direction will undoubtedly come as a shock to many and threatens to alienate some of their core fans. Let’s be clear though, this isn’t a defiant concoction of neo grunge riffage nor is it an all-out gutsy hard rock record either. It’s a sound that possesses driving rhythmic elements of Springsteen and the thin melancholic atmospheres of latter day Coldplay.
The band have taken a detour from the style that defined them on previous albums Sigh No More and Babel. Songs like the opener ‘Tomkins Square Park’ and ‘The Wolf’ burst with a promising newfound fire and determination. Dark grooves click well with an expanded rhythm section. Session drummer, James Ford, thickens out the sound of the band that attacks with attempted grit in moments such as the sudden dynamic explosion in the second half of penultimate album closer, ‘Only Love’, and creates admirable light and shade in the almost epic finale ‘Hot Gates’.
‘Wilder Mind’ starts and ends well, but the soft rock in between is unconvincing. There are still elements of folk in the minimalistic ballad ‘Cold Arms’ and the plucky ‘Just Smoke’ where clean chords are strummed to a beat that chugs to the churning of combine harvesters. However, the new sound doesn’t come across as a confident statement and feels more like a negative mood swing that the band will forget and shake themselves down from tomorrow morning.
This latest offering breaks the mould for Mumford & Sons and they have successfully allowed themselves a certain degree of freedom now to experiment creatively with future works. ‘Wilder Mind’ plods along nicely enough but the songs fail to hang around once the record has stopped spinning. There are embers of defiant rock here and there in an ocean of dreary jangling guitars but not much to get the blood pumping as they did at Glastonbury two years ago.
An interesting yet at times unconvincing change in direction.