By Mumford & Sons
'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is a phrase that comes to mind while listening to Mumford and Sons sophomore offering 'Babel'. The follow-up to the 2009's multi-platinum selling debut 'Sigh No More' does not attempt to break away from the barn-storming stompers that have made the band a household name and a festival mainstay over the last few years. Marcus Mumford and co clearly needed to tread a difficult line making this record; while attempting to satisfy the indie crowds from which they came, they have a new duty to please the pop hoards and record execs that made them a Grammy and Brit award winning act.
In that respect 'Babel' delivers in spades, the 12-track record can be clearly split between sing-along chart-toppers or somber, broodier numbers which add indie cred to a record clearly intended to sell by the bucket load. The album begins in a confident mood with title track 'Babel' crashing into life with banjo and acoustic guitar while Mumford cries 'Babel, Babel, Look at me now'. The record's first highlight is single 'I Will Wait', which unfortunately seems as if a pop hook has been crow barred into an otherwise average album track. 'Ghosts That We Knew' is the first attempt to show the softer side of the album which is executed with some style as Mumford coos 'Give me hope in the darkness, That I will see the light'. The stand out song arrives halfway through in 'Lover Of The Light', a tune destined to soundtrack concerts and festivals alike, featuring a fantastic banjo breakdown and nagging chorus line. However, the album seems to drag as things progress with tracks 'Hopeless Wanderer' and 'Below My Feet' (which features, whisper it, a screeching electric guitar!) occasionally offering hope for more but never really delivering. Winston Marshall's almost constant banjo-twiddling seems to grate after a while, as does Mumford's earnest lyrics which get a little exhaustive towards the end of the LP.
You see 'Babel' isn't necessarily a bad record, it's just so unsurprising, uninventive and uninspiring. By the last banjo twiddle you'll feel as if you've heard nothing new from a band who once showed so much promise. While it's true that Mumford and Sons' particular brand of Folk-Rock isn't about reinventing the wheel, this record reeks of a band trying to satisfy their ticket-buying fans so that they can pack out the arenas they will no-doubt inhabit over the next few years. Markus Dravs' Coldplay-attuned style of production has taken all the rough edges from a once exciting young folk act who now seem to inhabit the same genre as Chris Martin and his chums. It might not be broken, but Mumford and Sons lack of ambition to fix anything labels this record as a disappointing and ultimately flawed follow-up.