1.5 / 5
There was a time when vagueness was a part of rock music. It was big in classic rock – Springsteen and AC/DC alike told stories of everymen that resonated, even though their details were ripped out of entry level creative writing classes. Think about Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” – it describes a very specific girl, but an everygirl. Mumford & Sons harken back to the days of classic rock storytellers on their first electric album, Wilder Mind. But then isn’t now. Mumford & Sons going electric doesn’t resonate like when Dylan did it – hell, they’re probably quieter here. And in an incredibly overpopulated music scene, with artists like FKA twigs, Grimes, Viet Cong and TWIABPAIANLATD melting and reforming hybrid genres, and artists crafting increasingly more specific lyrics – see Groin Twerk, Sometimes, King Kunta – vagueness isn’t going to get you anywhere.
“Monster.” That was my choice for the first ballad of the album when I first looked at the tracklist. Not because of the title, far from it – just because it was the sixth track. I was right. The album was predictable from the get-go; what you expect is presented almost exactly. The band sounds like any myriad of guitar-driven indie bands that’s existed from ’91 – present. There’s almost nothing memorable here. Wilder Mind stands equal with any of the non-Hot Fuss Killers albums, and any Coldplay album, as that album that most dads hold on to as a last grasp at trying to bond with their kids over music.
The album’s worst quality is that it isn’t worse than it is. If this album were actually worse, it could be fun-bad, like an ironic listen that you listen to for a laugh. But it’s just bland. It’s tepid, totally drained of life. There’s almost nothing enjoyable, and it’s forgotten before it’s even over. There are highlights, at least – the band sounds engaged on the opener “Tompkins Square Park,” a song that could stand as a Death Cab ripoff. And they do bring an energy to the table late on the album on “Ditmas.” But the two Brooklyn-named songs notwithstanding, nothing else works here.
Mumford & Sons came out of the gates swinging a few years ago, armed with banjos, a new sound that rivaled acoustic dubstep, and a ridiculous personae that couldn’t be ignored. It got old fast as they played themselves out, but they rode the world for a few years. Why they’d follow up a Grammy-pummeling album with this light-hearted, dull mess is beyond comprehension. Credit to a band trying to reinvent themselves, but Wilder Mind is just an old grenade, hissing with its pin pulled, and a crowd standing, slowly moving their fingers from their ears.