Being a review of Mumford and Sons album – Sigh No More.
Folk I hear you say? Folk I say. But I’m not quite sure what they’d say and on listening to it I’m worried about what you might say.
Any band with a Banjo played within it, albeit a fashion Banjo with electric guitar body surrounding the more traditional round bit (otherwise known as the ‘head’) runs the risk of someone calling them a folk outfit, combo or other olde waye of describin’ yee olde poppe music groupe! So I’m going to do it, it is by this benchmark that they shall be judged. Though the ‘Folk’ label would normally kill stone dead anything for the ‘under 25 years of age’ on mere utterance, this album is in the album charts, it’s on Tesco’s ‘record racks’ and is obviously doing well enough to generate some forward motion in this freebie downloading ipod laden world; where goodness only knows how any popular musician makes a living crust from doing what they do. They have obviously taken great care to avoid calling themselves Folk and have probably taken contracts out on anyone who has even got within 50 years of calling them folk, but blimey …. folk they are.
Truth is I bought this for my wife because she saw the T.V. ad and liked the tune ‘Winter Winds’, it’s catchy enough, nothing special, but a fair first offering album wise, and getting a fair play on BBC Radio 2 particularly. Perhaps I expect too much because I’m always wanting to and expecting to hear a spark of genius in new music and yet how can a band formed only 3 years ago in 2007 be expected to be the next big boys on the block. The album is a good listen, nicely if simply arranged, well recorded and with some songs that positively shine out into the abyss of ‘oh God I’ve heard it all before so many times’, but it just lacks that last dash of spice, that moment of magic, that sound of tomorrow like you never heard it in yesteryear.
There is a lyrical simplicity to what they do that I really engaged with, offering some innocent words alongside the music takes guts and risks to write and to stand by these words in front of a Mic is admirable. In some places however obscure references I feel disguise the lack of connection the lyricist and singer is making, or rather not making with the listener, instead of being directly poetical, they just end up sounding obscure for obscurities sake. Yet, the pure innocence of some of the words really works.
A song like ‘I gave you all‘ with it’s lines ~
How can you say that your truth is better than ours?
Shoulder to shoulder, now brother, we carry no arms
The blind man sleeps in the doorway, his home
If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won
Doesn’t to my mind work, on paper particularly it just looks pretentious and meaningless in the main, however, when they sing in the song ‘Awake My Soul’ which for me is the stand out tune on the album ~
How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
This weakness I feel I must finally show
Actually rather simply I just admire any writer who has the self belief to put the word woozy into a lyric… writing songs isn’t easy you know. To write something a little transcendant you pay by giving a piece of yourself away and that means risking that on seeing the innards of you any critic can pull your guts about and leave you exposed. It’s moments like these that create the condition of Writer’s Block you know!
It’s a little disconcerting that they look in some of their promo like someone’s idea of what 18th cent. Tinkers who might have just popped their head out the Caravan door to see if the hedgehog was roasting nicely might look like, I dont know why I find it so tedious that there seems to be an unwritten uniform of clothing to every genre of music making. It’s as if the record companies are worried that we’re too stupid to work out what we’re listening to unless we have some Dreadlocks to look at, or some Black Spikey Hair and Nose-ring to indicate the correct listening attitude.
The instrumentation which consists of: piano, vocals (lots of good close harmonies), guitars, banjo, strings, percussion, points all the time at an acoustic ancestry, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Waterboys in particular, the Levellers, Bluegrass, The Pogues and so on, you get the idea.. oh and the Men They Couldn’t hang, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mumford and Sons don’t get the gig this year for Paddy’s Day at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire… you get the idea?
I think really that I’ve written enough to give you an idea of what this might be like, without wasting too much time on what, for me, is a listenable debut album, but one that doesn’t warrant very much in depth thought. A bit like the music and the lyrics of ‘Sigh No More’.
- Sigh No More
- The Cave
- Winter Winds
- Roll Away Your Stone
- White Blank Page
- I Gave You All
- Little Lion Man
- Thistle & Weeds
- Awake My Soul
- Dust bowl Dance
- After The Storm