Mumford & Sons, always my antagonist, but somehow keeps being your protagonist. I mean, how on earth are they still relevant to you? Buzzfeed stopped caring years ago you know. They're returning with their third album this year titled Wilder Mind. Apparently influenced by Led Zep and Radiohead - god help me. The first cut from Wilder Mind happens to make all the hardcore Mumford & Sons fans rage, which makes me want to put on a fedora and become a huge Mumford & Sons fan. When Radiohead left Ok Computer for Kid A... What the hell am I doing using these albums as examples of Mumford & Sons progression. Screw it. When Radiohead left Ok Computer for Kid A, sure, some fans were not happy with the change, but it created a whole new side to Radiohead which they 100% had to do in order to advance as a recording outfit after their commercial success with Ok Computer, one of alt-rock's best. Alienating fans is sometimes necessary, especially for your own creative needs. Mumford & Sons alienating their audience is different because in this age, alienating your paying audience can be extremely harmful. And although i'd like to say this is the right direction, it's not financially, but in order to rid the world of that god awful banjo chorus', yes, please carry on.
"Believe" actually isn't repetitive; which for a Mumford & Sons song is a pretty big accomplishment. This is partly down to stretching the build-up for two-minutes in a Coldplay Viva La Vida 'wait for it' kind of way, but also because if I started singing along to the instrumental, I wouldn't start singing lyrics to "The Cave", "I Will Wait", or "Little Lion Man", which are pretty much the same song where the chorus' could be interchangeable. It's no surprise Mumford & Sons have a different producer for this album, with James Ford taking control after his stint with Jessie Ware. The differences in sound between "Believe" and Babel are not that astonishing to be honest, you have to see it through their eyes rather than your own selfish ears.
Then again, this change in direction really does leave them open to criticism from all angles. Including the obvious one: what are they trying to do? The influence of Radiohead / Led Zeppelin is funnier than James Corden's stand-ups. The 'atmosphere' is so Jon Hopkins / Brian Eno it's just asking to be bullied. The layered vocals scream Chris Martin on recent Coldplay, not the good Coldplay circa Parachutes. It leaves Mumford & Sons in no man’s land, unfortunately for them and their hardcore 'folk' fans - laughable in itself. If this is the direction Wilder Mind goes, then it might as well be thrown away now. "Believe" does nothing for your emotions, musically it's far too reliant on sounds they wouldn't have created, and as far as style or genre goes, well, they're non-existent. For fans of M&S, I’d like to help you fill the void.
If you like the way this sounds, but want better: Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head, and just about every Elbow album.
If you liked the folk element: Fleet Foxes