British nu-folk outfit Mumford and Sons began their career in 2007. They came with soaring vocals, brilliant harmonies, frenzied banjo riffs and string arrangements one hadn’t heard in a while in the mainstream. With Wilder Minds, their third album, the band had a chance to experiment and find out another direction, just try to breakaway from the rut. So they got The National guitarist Aaron Dessner and Arctic Monkeys’ producer James Ford on board, ditched their banjos, and created 12 worn out, mediocre tracks.
Wilder Minds doesn’t boast of any folk rock from a band synonymous with the genre. Those banjo riffs, elaborate string arrangements and sing-alongs have been replaced by loud pounding on the drums, echoing guitars and a strong synth presence. But by plugging in and dispensing with most things acoustic, the band has only raised their volume. It would have worked if they had raised the bar, too.
But what has stayed, thankfully, is Marcus Mumford’s gorgeous voice. Another plus is the structure of the songs. Believe is one of them. The piano intro eases into a string section while Marcus croons, “I don’t even know if I believe, everything you’re trying to say to me.” Halfway through, the electric guitar pierces through. It’s done well.
The album opens with the upbeat Tompkin’s Park. It’s firmly cut but soon begins to sound like any other alt-rock song. Snake Eyes begins softly with Marcus singing over cascading guitars and light taps on the cymbals. The arrangement of Just Smoke with soft guitars and light drums remind one of the band’s older days. The Wolf is heavily arranged on drums and begins well but soon loses direction. As for the title song, it’s plain dull and not “wild” in any sense of the word. But Cold Arms comes with a reverb to die for.
The album does have its moments, but Mumford and Sons need to introspect on their sound before their next offering.